Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Please Give Generously to the Innocence Project of Florida

Alejandra de la Fuente — December 16, 2014 @ 5:27 PM — Comments (0)

My end-of-year appeal to you is short and heartfelt. Through your generous donations, the Innocence Project of Florida frees innocent men and women from Florida prisons.

Today, our exonerees shout the joy of freedom, but most were serving life sentences. Without you and the Innocence Project of Florida, they might have died in prison with no one ever to hear them or help them.

All of them were young with their lives ahead of them; all of them had mothers and fathers; all were shackled and locked up. Collectively, Florida’s 14 DNA exonerees were imprisoned for more than a quarter of a millenium (268 years) for crimes they did not commit. For a very long time, no one heard their cries.

We hear them. The Innocence Project of Florida currently has more than 30 cases in litigation and we are anticipating up to three new exonerations in 2015. We receive hundreds of requests from prisoners each year — but we cannot help them without you.

For the sake of every innocent man and woman who is spending this holiday season locked up in prison hoping for a miracle, please donate generously to the Innocence Project of Florida. Do not let them spend another year behind bars.

Thank you. I wish you a happy and peaceful New Year— and one that is filled with miracles!

Seth Miller, Esq.
Executive Director

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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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Michigan Man Exonerated After 17 Years in Prison

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 09, 2014 @ 9:01 AM — Comments (0)

Jaime Lee Peterson was exonerated today after spending 17 years in custody and in a Michigan prison for the rape and murder of a elderly woman that he did not commit. He was serving a life sentence. The cause of his wrongful conviction stems from his false confession during the interrogation process which happened four months after the murder. Despite knowing that DNA testing of the victim’s rape kit excluded Peterson as the rapist, the jury convicted Peterson at a 1998 trial. The prosecutor led the jury to believe that semen found at the crime scene that was, at that time, untestable most likely belonged to Mr. Peterson. Along with his initial confession, this was enough to sentence him to life in prison. New DNA testing was conducted last year at the urging of Mr. Peterson’s new attorneys, the testing sought to prove that the previously untestable DNA belonged to the same person whose DNA was found initially with the rape kit. All of the male DNA  tested in this case was found to match a man named Jason Ryan (who was actually interviewed during the initial investigation).  Ryan was arrested last year for this decades old crime and currently is awaiting trial. Petersen’s case was led by the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

This case is just another one to add to the troubling ever growing list of coerced false confessions. After initially confessing Jaime (who is cognitively impaired) recanted his statements, but that usually does the person in such a situation no good. Roughly a fourth of those exonerated in America falsely confessed to crimes at some point during their interrogation. Jaime is the fourth man in Michigan to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

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Kentucky Women Close to Exoneration

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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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The Number of Exonerations Continues to Grow

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 25, 2013 @ 11:43 AM — Comments (0)

As of October 2013 the number of exonerations documented in the United States was 1,228.

Exonerations nationwide are documented in The National Registry of Exonerations, which is a joint project of the Michigan Law School and Northwestern University School of Law. The registry is a searchable and detailed database of information about those who have been exonerated from prison in the United States.

National-Registry-of-ExonerationsSamuel R. Gross, law professor at the University of Michigan School of Law , and Rob Warden, executive director of The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern School of Law, began reviewing data on exonerations in the United States in 1989.

In 2012, with the help of law student Michael Shaffer and many other volunteers, they published a comprehensive review of exonerations on a national scale and launched the website for the National Registry of Exonerations.

The report contains extensive research data from 1989 to 2012. The three help to define and clarify exonerations and the processes behind them. The report also significantly explained in large detail reasons for wrongful convictions. Here are some excerpts from the inaugural report from The National Registry of Exonerations.

“DNA exonerations also take longer than non-DNA exonerations; the median time from conviction is 14.9 years compared to 7.8 years. This is true for homicide cases, where the median time is 15 years with DNA and 11.9 years without; for sexual assault cases, where the comparable numbers are 14.6 years and 7.1 years; and for child sex abuse exonerations, where the median times are 17 years with DNA and 5.9 without DNA.”

“The 873 exonerations in the Registry  come from 43 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 19 federal districts, and the military. They are very unevenly distributed by state, and especially when broke down by county. This suggests we are missing many cases – both innocent defendants from jurisdictions where exonerations are vanishingly rare, and exonerated defendants whose cases have received little or no public attention.”

Along with detailing information regarding DNA testing for exonerations and national data, Gross and Ward explain the types of situations that may lead to wrongful incarceration. These situations are many and varied though common themes tie them together. Some of the most egregious wrongful convictions stem from official misconduct on behalf of law enforcement or the courts.

“The range of misconduct is very large. It includes flagrantly abusive investigative practices that produce the types of false evidence we have discussed: committing or procuring perjury; torture; threats or other highly coercive interrogations; threatening or lying to eyewitnesses; forensic fraud. At the far end, it includes framing innocent suspects for crimes that never occurred. The most common serious form of official misconduct is concealing exculpatory evidence from the defendant and the court.”

The average number of exonerations has grown by about 220 cases per year. The website is an invaluable resource that is intuitively designed and makes searching out exonerees a simple task. The website allows the user to search using name, exoneration date, contributing factors to exoneration, location, and status. The website also provides relatively short biographies of those profiled and their history regarding their exoneration.

 You can find information about the Registry online and a copy of the inaugural exonerations report created by Gross and Warden can be found here.

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News Roundup From Around the Nation

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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.

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Justice 72 Years Later for Harry Gleeson – Maybe

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 10, 2013 @ 4:57 PM — Comments (1)

In an unprecedented case, the Irish Government is considering posthumously exonerating a man who was convicted of murder in 1940 and executed less than one year later.  Seventy-two years after Harry Gleeson’s death, his family may be getting the closure they desire. The newly formed Irish Innocence Project at Dublin’s Griffith College is heading up the cause for Harry Gleeson’s exoneration.

The Irish farmer Harry GleesonGleeson was wrongfully convicted of murdering his next door neighbor in November of 1940. Gleeson was denied a fair trial and evidence was withheld. This evidence is now just coming to light with the help of a new Justice Minister and a new pathologist’s report on the body of victim Mary McCarthy.

David Langwaller is the head of the Irish Innocence Project and works closely with DNA expert Dr. Greg Hampikian, scientist and Director of Idaho Innocence Project. Gleeson may be the first exoneration for The Irish Innocence Project. After reaching out to the the Justice Minister last year, the Irish Innocence Project was finally able to make headway in  Gleeson’s case. According to Langwaller, new evidence has recently been discovered that can prove his innocence.

Gleeson’s family has been trying for years to get his case to the courts in Ireland and is just now able to thanks to the Irish Innocence Project. Their years of working to exonerate Harry Gleeson may pay off very soon.

You can find more information at the Irish Innocence Project and the Independent.

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Exoneree Jeffery Deskovic Recently Awarded $5.4 Million

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 06, 2013 @ 2:50 PM — Comments (0)

New York exoneree Jeffery Deskovic was recently awarded $5.4 million dollars for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment in a murder/rape case. Deskovic was convicted when he was 16 years old and served 15 years in prison after being forced to confess by police and a hired polygraph investigator. Deskovic was told if the DNA test came back negative then he would be cleared as a suspect and freed. The DNA tests returned without Deskovic’s DNA present, and yet he remained in custody because of his false confession.

Jeffery DeskovicJeffery spent almost half of his life imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Peekskill Common Council board recently awarded him $5.4 million in return for the years spent in jail. Since being exonerated in 2011 with the help of the Innocence Project, Jeffery has earned his Masters Degree in Criminal Justice, started a foundation in his own name, and is working to further the exoneration of others who are wrongfully imprisoned.

Deskovic’s foundation has helped many already and will continue to help those in need. They offer services for recent exonerees who are often without anyone to turn to as well as research into wrongful incarceration cases.

More information about Deskovic can be found at The Innocence Project, Deskovic Foundation, and

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For the Exonerated: Years Taken and Nothing Given Back

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 03, 2013 @ 12:45 PM — Comments (0)

Many of those who are exonerated of crimes they did not commit often leave prison and enter a world where they are alone. Many exonerees that are without the care of family or friends, some of whom have been in prison for 10 or 20 or more years, struggle with re-integrating into society. The lack of support given to them by the prison system and their state government is appalling and needs to be addressed by a larger audience.

Recent exoneree Johnnie O'Neal  seeks compensation for his incarceration.

Recent exoneree Johnnie O’Neal

Not only do many exonerees need counseling upon their release but more often than not exonerees rightfully seek compensation for time served. Exonerees are given no assistance in seeking out legal expertise needed to help with their problems. One such man who was recently exonerated from a New York prison is Johnnie O’Neal. O’Neal served 28 years for a rape he did not commit. In a case of mistaken identity, O’Neal was arrested and sent to prison in 1985 and was denied parole on multiple occasions, because he denied ever committing the crime. O’Neal was initially released in 1998 on parole and had subsequent minor parole violations.

With the help of the Legal Aid Society in New York, O’Neal’s wrongful conviction was rectified in 2013. After being labeled a violent sex offender for more than 10 years, the Legal Aid Society helped reopen the case in 2010 and O’Neal was exonerated three years later on July 15, 2013.

O’Neal has stated that he will bring a lawsuit against those responsible for his wrongful incarceration and the subsequent difficulties he experienced in supporting himself as an ex-convict and an accused sex offender.

O’Neal’s case draws attention to the lack of support for and acknowledgement of the problems exonerees face upon their release. O’Neal now must search out the right course of action to somehow gain redress for his his time served and opportunities lost.

More information on Johnnie O’Neal’s case can be found at the New York Daily News and the Innocence Project. Further information on state compensation statutes and exoneree support can be found in the Innocence Project’s compensation report Making Up For Lost Time: What The Wrongfully Convicted Endure And How To Provide Fair Compensation.

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Celebrating Freedom and Justice with Orlando Boquete

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 22, 2013 @ 10:27 AM — Comments (0)

May 23, 2013 marks the seventh anniversary of Orlando Boquete’s exoneration. We would like to take a moment to celebrate not only Orlando’s freedom but the freedom restored to all exonerees.

For many wrongly imprisoned, returning to life on the outside proves to be a difficult transition, and society will have changed greatly in the time they were away. But as Orlando told the New York Times, “I feel free many, many times…I want to feel free.” Despite transitional struggles and time lost, Orlando remains determined to embrace his freedom and rebuild the life he always imagined for himself.

Congratulations, Orlando, and happy anniversary of your restored freedom!

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