Posts Tagged ‘life after exoneration’


Exoneration Anniversary of Jules Letemps

Victoria Inzana — October 14, 2017 @ 12:00 PM — Comments (0)

One year ago today, Jules Letemps was exonerated after 27 years in prison.

Although he was exonerated of a crime he did not commit, he is still not free.

On May 29th, 1989, a young woman on her way to work was waiting for a bus in Orlando, Florida. A man had approached her, placed a metal object to her neck, and led her towards some bushes where he forced her to remove her clothing and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She was able to flee her attacker, obtain help from a nearby resident, and contact the police. Once home, the victim showered and called her cousin. Together, they went back to the location of the crime to search for her assailant. This was when the victim spotted Jules Letemps, then 26, on his way to work. She immediately summoned an officer who arrested Jules. He attempted to tell the officer that he was on his way to the Toyota dealership where he was employed as a maintenance man where he was charged with the task of washing the cars.

Jules was charged with three counts of sexual assault, and one count of kidnapping. His trial was held in Orange County in November of 1989, where the main evidence against him was the victim’s testimony. At trial, a forensic analyst testified that she had examined the robe worn by the victim after the assault, and found a semen stain. She claimed that this stain was so diluted that she could not conclude anything. After a two day trial, where Jules’ defense attorney did not cross-examine any of the police officers who testified for the prosecution, he was sentenced to four consecutive terms of life in prison.

With the help of fellow immigrants, Jules filed numerous post-conviction petitions in the hopes of getting his sentence overturned. All of his attempts were unsuccessful. In 2010, Centurion Ministries began examining his case. His attorney, Paul Casteleiro, found the cassette tapes of various pretrial depositions, one of which was the forensic analyst on the case. In her deposition, she explained to Letempt’s attorney the testing procedures used to analyze the semen stain that was found on the robe the victim had been wearing.

In the deposition, the forensic expert explained that the blood type identified on the robe was O, which matches the blood type of the victim. This should have excluded Jules as the perpetrator because his blood type is B. However, due to the dilution, they could not positively exclude Jules, even though no blood type B was found.

Centurion obtained all notable documents of this forensic expert (lab notes and transcribed deposition) and enlisted a number of experts in serology to review the document. It was concluded that the expert was incorrect in the determination that the semen was too diluted to obtain an exact result, and they also were able to positively exclude Jules as the source of the semen.

Once this information was found, Centurion procured the additional counsel of Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida, and filed a motion for post-conviction relief. The court denied this petition, and the appellate court affirmed. Jules’ lawyer, Castelerio, then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and on July 20th, 2015, Judge Gregory Presnell granted it and ordered a new trial for Jules.

In this new trial, it was ruled that Jules’ trial attorney had provided inadequate defense by failing to investigate the analysis of the forensic expert. The judge determined that the new evidence, combined with Jules’ alibi testimony, raised enough doubt to undermine his conviction and on October 14th, the prosecution dropped their charges.

Usually, when an inmate is exonerated, they are free. However, Jules’ journey is quite different than any other exoneree.

Jules is a Hatian immigrant who came to the United States on “humanitarian parole” in 1981. This is a temporary status granted to those fleeing their country for urgent humanitarian reasons. He had fled Haiti due to political unrest and economic turmoil. Due to a past felony drug charge, immigration officials revoked his parole and planned to try and deport him after he had served his sentence for the wrongful conviction. After 27 years, of wrongful imprisonment, Jules is still waiting to be reunited with his friends and family in Florida. His lawyer, as do many others, believe that permitting his residency here would be proper compensation for the injustice he has suffered.

His next hearing is February 7th; it will likely be months before the court gives a final decision on his deportation.

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A Brief Look At What Life Is Like After Exoneration

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 06, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

A presentation about what happens to the wrongfully convicted after they are exonerated was held on Wednesday, March 30 at Creighton University. The guest speakers included Dr. Laura Caldwell, lawyer and founder of Loyola University’s Life After Innocence, and Kristine Bunch, an exoneree who spent 17 years in prison for a crime she did not commit.

Chair of the Department of Cultural and Social Studies at Creighton University, Dr. Rebecca Murray, stated that while things such as DNA analysis have helped more people become aware of the issue of wrongful conviction, a problem that has not garnered such attention is the struggle many exonerees face following their release. Compared to people who have not been wrongfully incarcerated, Dr. Murray stated that research shows exonerees have a higher incidence of premature death, struggle with PTSD, and suffer from depression at higher rates.

Aware of the issues exonerees face after they have been released, Innocence Project of Florida was the first innocence organization to employ a full-time social worker on staff. In addition, IPF is one of the few innocence organizations to boast a social services reentry program, which has been in place since 2006. The program aims to help Florida exonerees and exonerees from other states who move to Florida with their reentry into life outside of prison by providing services such as medical assistance, financial assistance, and job training and assistance.

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Life After Exoneration: What’s next?

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 28, 2014 @ 2:09 PM — Comments (1)

It’s safe to say that one of the best days of the lives of a wrongfully convicted person is the day that they are finally free from prison after serving time for crimes they did not commit. However, these men and women who had once thought their lives were over get a major news flash the moment they are set free. What do they do next?

If you are like Nicole Harris, a female exoneree from the greater Chicago area, you spend time with your teenage son, who was just 5 years old at the time of conviction, and apply to graduate school. You even might plan that long awaited trip to New York City. That is what Harris is doing, as she says it is the one place she has always wanted to go.

Maybe you are Brian Banks, who at the time of his conviction was being recruited by USC and Pete Caroll to play big- time college football. After five years in prison, what would you do if you were Banks? Why, play more football, of course. Since being exonerated almost two years ago, Brian has tried out for the Atlanta Falcons, making it to the next final cut before the 52-person team. He runs a twitter account and has done all he can to do what he has always wanted to do.

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If you are Bill Dillon, you have 27 years of life to make up; you record an album, and sing the national anthem at the Tampa Bay Ray’s baseball game. Dillon spent over half of his life behind bars, and he is now working to make up for lost time. He plays in a band, loves Deep Purple, and has spent the last 5 years getting used to the major change in technology since 1981 when he was convicted.

IPF board member and exoneree, William Michael Dillon performed two songs about his wrongful conviction.

IPF board member and exoneree, William Michael Dillon performed two songs about his wrongful conviction.

The stories of the exonerated are some of the most powerful out there. They were taken from their families, their dreams, their life plans, and put in prison for crimes they did not commit. Now, trying to get back to ‘normal’ life, it is not always the easiest thing to pick up where they left off. With that being said, many of those who have been wrongfully convicted restore in the rest of us hope, even when we may be in a place where no hope comes from at all.

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Life on the Outside

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 01, 2013 @ 5:37 PM — Comments (1)

After serving seven years in a prison for a crime he did not commit, Ronald Ross walked out into the free world on February 22, 2013. Wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in 2006, Ross spent seven unnecessary years behind bars. Yet his lawyers claim that he has no desire to retaliate against the justice system. Ross would rather focus on regaining his life.

Ross spoke with about his new life on the outside. Ross claims to ABC , “I’m just like a newborn baby, got to take one step at a time.” The lawyers of the Northern California Innocence Project worked diligently on Ross’ case in order to exonerate him from a wrongful conviction. The challenges for Ross may, unfortunately, become more difficult before becoming any easier.

It is difficult to imagine the psychological toll of a wrongful conviction. It was loosely described to me as if one is relocated to a foreign country where the language and the customs are very different. Nothing is remotely the same, therefore the brain must learn to adapt to the foreign environment creating new physical pathway of thought processes. In an exceedingly new environment, one has no choice but to ask for help in order to function. The Innocence Project of Florida employs a social services professional who specifically works with the exonerees to ease the transition from behind bars to life on the outside. These wrongfully convicted individuals spent many years, even decades, in prison.

James Bain, exonerated by the Innocence Project of Florida in 2009 after 35 years of wrongful incarceration, said he was very worried about transitioning from his life in prison to life on the outside but felt a sigh of relief when he found out that IPF would provide him transitioning services. He states that the transition was incredibly difficult but is glad IPF was there for support after his exoneration.

Serving time in prison can feel like being frozen in time. While the world continues to grow and advance, those convicted must remain separate, and thus causing a disconnect between life before and after prison. Inmates may experience similar anxieties and thoughts, however, the experiences of one inmate are never exactly the same as the other. Every life, every case, and every exoneration is highly individualized. The successful assimilation back into society depends greatly on the social and familial support system.

Having a family for support during the entire process has shown to increase the success of the individual. Since the wrongfully convicted individual is not the only one affected, this year Steppin’ Out with The Innocence Project of Florida is paying tribute the family members who lost a loved one for decades to a wrongful conviction. Join James and other exonerees on April 5, 2013, from 6-9 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Miami, Florida. Click here to find out more about Steppin’ Out 2013.

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A Week of Outreach

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 26, 2012 @ 11:26 AM — Comments (0)

Spreading awareness about IPF and wrongful convictions is crucial in the fight against injustices found in the legal system. A community that is knowledgeable about wrongful convictions is one that will be able to recognize the causes, effects and the harm they cause to innocent persons and society. For this reason IPF spent the week of the October 14th, spreading awareness about our project throughout Florida.

On the 16th Jackie Pugh, James Bain and Robert Cromwell visited Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Pugh, IPF’s development coordinator,  spoke to an audience of over 60 people about IPF and the work that we do.

Cromwell, an IPF board member and retired FBI Special Agent in Charge, spoke about reforms that are necessary to correct two of the causes of wrongful convictions – witness misidentification and false confessions .

“What can I do about yesterday? I can only live for today,” James Bain said to the audience filled with students, professors and community members.

He spent an hour answering questions that revealed after spending 35 years in prison, he has done nothing more than move forward with his life. He shared with the audience how he met his wife and being a father to a six month old son named James Jr.

A similar presentation was held at Rollins College in Winter Park on Oct. 17th. Pugh introduced IPF to the audience. She was accompanied by William Dillon who gave the guests a first hand account of his wrongful conviction and how his exoneration has affected his life.

Our last stop was at Stetson University in DeLand Fla on the 19th. IPF was invited by the Bonner Program to give a presentation.

Photos of James Bain at Florida Southern via TheLedger.com

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