Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Boquete’

Today in Wrongful Conviction History: May 23

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 23, 2016 @ 9:38 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Marvin Mitchell and Orlando Boquete! Marvin was exonerated in Massachusetts in 1997 with help from the Innocence Project. nike air zoom pegasus 33 donna marvin Orlando is one of Florida’s very own exonerees and was exonerated in 2006 with help from the Innocence Project. asics kayano 23 femme He spent 13 years in prison for attempted sexual battery and burglary that he did not commit. New Balance 1300 homme Unfortunately, Chaussures New Balance he is ineligible for compensation because he managed to escape from his wrongful conviction twice before filing a motion on his own seeking DNA testing in 2003, nike internationalist femme the results of which proved he was not the perpetrator. He did, New Balance 373 femme however, Air Jordan 3 Homme fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost Homme naturalized citizen on March 27, 2015. nike tn homme 2017 Orlando and IPF have maintained close ties since his release, Nike Air Max Thea Homme Noir where we have helped him with myriad reentry issues. You can read more about his case here.

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My Experience at Innocence Project of Florida’s 2016 Steppin’ Out Spring Gala

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 16, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Innocence Project of Florida’s annual Steppin’ Out Spring Gala on May 12 was a huge success this year. The major fundraising event for the project generated over $70,000 in funds that will go towards litigation efforts in IPF’s fight to free the wrongfully convicted in Florida prisons.

Serving as a Criminal Justice Communications Intern at IPF since the beginning of January 2016, I was looking forward to the event in the months leading up to it for several reasons. I used to complain about having to write papers for classes, but in my position as an intern, I research topics related to wrongful conviction and write blog posts and articles about them throughout the day. I came to love something I once groaned about because through writing countless pieces about the issue of wrongful conviction in this country, not only have I greatly improved my writing skills, but I have also learned so much about the topic and have a newfound admiration for the innocence movement. I have learned about hundreds of exonerees and read their tragic stories of how the criminal justice system literally took their lives away from them, and in turn have written a number of articles about a handful of them. I knew that I would finally be able to meet a few of the courageous men I had written about at Steppin’ Out, which is one of the main reasons I was quick to volunteer for and attend the event.

I think I speak for the majority of the innocence movement when I say that we look at exonerees as celebrities, on par with the likes of any famous movie or sports star. But unlike most Hollywood A-listers, exonerees did not earn their fame by starring in movies or being really good at a sport; they earned it solely through their courage and determination to prove their innocence—no matter how long it took. After Netflix released Making a Murderer last December, Steven Avery became a household name practically overnight. The nation, and now even the world, was astonished and disgusted with the injustices Avery had experienced. And while his story finally brought the long-time issue of wrongful conviction to widespread public attention, Avery’s story is just one of thousands. Take, for example, James Bain, who was exonerated in 2009 with the help of IPF after spending 35 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. Thirty-five years. To put that into perspective, since James went to prison in 1974 and before his release, the text message was invented, terrorists attacked our country on 9/11, and Americans elected the nation’s first African American president. At the time of his release, James had served the most time wrongfully incarcerated of all the DNA exonerees across the country.

James was just one of the few exonerees that attended Steppin’ Out and that I had the pleasure of briefly meeting. Also in attendance was Orlando Boquete, who I was particularly excited to meet because of all the great things I had heard about him through staff members at IPF. Orlando actually managed to escape from his wrongful conviction twice, and although that makes him ineligible for compensation, he was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. naturalized citizen on March 27, 2015. The moment Orlando walked into the gala event, he lit up the entire room with his positive, outgoing, and warm presence. To have such a great attitude and outlook despite everything he has been through is truly amazing. Other Florida exonerees also in attendance included Seth Penalver, who was exonerated from death row in 2012, and William Dillon and Derrick Williams, who were exonerated through the efforts of IPF.

Some of the wrongfully convicted from other states also attended Steppin’ Out, including Clay Chabot and Richard Rosario. I was especially excited about meeting Richard, who actually had his conviction overturned recently on March 23. A series about Richard’s story was even featured on Dateline NBC. Having written a couple blog posts about him due to his recent release from prison and the series about him, it was surprising to see him at the event, but just as exciting nonetheless. Watching all of the exonerees interact with each other was such a unique experience, and it was truly rewarding to observe first-hand a bond they share that only they can understand.

Another main reason I was excited to attend Steppin’ Out was because Sister Helen Prejean was being honored at the event. I first have to thank Gordon Waldo, whose capital punishment class I took during my Spring 2015 semester at the Florida State University. Within the first couple weeks of class, he showed us the film Dead Man Walking, in which Susan Sarandon stars as Sister Helen, and depicts her first time serving as a spiritual advisor for an inmate on death row. Later on in the semester, Mr. Waldo dedicated an entire section of the course to innocent people awaiting the death penalty and showed us a few different films about the wrongfully convicted and the innocence movement. His capital punishment class is where I learned that someone could go to jail for a crime they did not commit, and also where I learned about innocence projects and the amazing pro-bono work that they do to free the wrongfully convicted. Had it not been for Mr. Waldo’s class, I may not have known about the issue of wrongful conviction and the innocence movement until much later, and perhaps I would have never applied to be an intern at IPF. Therefore, I credit the irreplaceable and incredible experience I have had interning at IPF to Mr. Waldo. He actually attended Steppin’ Out, and I was extremely happy for him that he was able to meet the remarkable woman whose movie he has shown in his capital punishment class for several years.

Often called the “Mother Teresa of Death Row,” Sister Helen is known for her extensive work in advocating against the death penalty, and continues to touch lives with her selfless passion for helping others. She is one of the nicest, most humble, and welcoming human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and to even be in her presence was truly an honor. Upon accepting her Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award, Sister Helen delivered a speech that left not a single dry eye in the room. Listening to her stories and experiences was inspiring and perhaps even life changing, and it seems almost impossible that one person could be so selfless and caring. One part of her speech in particular resonated with me. After commending the exonerees for their bravery and relentless efforts to prove their innocence and how happy they must be now that they are finally free again, Sister Helen asked, “but what about the people advocating and fighting for them and the people working at innocence projects?” She went on to tell the exonerees and other patrons in attendance to imagine how great the lawyers and other members of innocence organizations must feel, knowing that their efforts to free the wrongfully convicted were worth it because they were victorious. Although I am just an intern and play no direct role in litigating cases or securing exonerations, I think that even one more person who learns more about the criminal justice system, necessary reforms, and especially the problem of wrongful convictions can make a difference. In addition to my internship at IPF, Sister Helen’s speech inspired me to want to remain an active member in the innocence movement and to one day hopefully make a difference—no matter how small—in at least one person’s life.

Overall, to sum up my first experience at the annual IPF Steppin’ Out Spring 2016 Gala, it was humbling, to say the least.

Here are a few photos from the event:

Exonerees Orlando Boquete and Richard Rosario

Exonerees Orlando Boquete and Richard Rosario

Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean

From left to right: IPF Executive Director Seth Miller, exoneree James Bain, exoneree Orlando Boquete, IPF Staff Attorney Melissa Montle, exoneree William Dillon, IPF Assistant Director Toni Shrewsbury, exoneree Clay Chabot, Sister Helen Prejean, IPF Director of Social Services Anthony Scott, death row exoneree Seth Penalver, exoneree Richard Rosario, exoneree Derrick Williams, IPF Investigator Jennie Nepstad

From left to right: IPF Executive Director Seth Miller, exoneree James Bain, exoneree Orlando Boquete, IPF Staff Attorney Melissa Montle, exoneree William Dillon, IPF Assistant Director Toni Shrewsbury, wrongfully convicted Clay Chabot, Sister Helen Prejean, IPF Director of Social Services Anthony Scott, death row exoneree Seth Penalver, wrongfully convicted Richard Rosario, exoneree Derrick Williams, and IPF Staff Investigator Jennie Nepstad

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Orlando Boquete’s 8th Exoneration Anniversary

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 22, 2014 @ 12:26 PM — Comments (0)

On this day eight years ago, Orlando Boquete regained his rightful status as a free and innocent man after spending 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. With the assistance of  the Innocence Project, Orlando was finally able to secure an exoneration for a rape he did not commit and restore the justice which had been denied to him.

It was June 25, 1982 when a Stock Island, Florida woman was sexually assault in her bedroom by a bald, Latino man with no shirt. Within minutes of the incident police had stopped a group of Latino men for questioning at a nearby convenience store. Within that group of Latino men, there was only one who meet the description of being shirtless and bald – Orlando Boquete. He was taken into custody and later “identified” by the victim, while sitting in a patrol car parked 20 feet away. Despite Orlando’s solid alibi of having been at home with his family at the time of the crime, his identification by the victim proved to be enough for a conviction and 50-year sentence.

However, Orlando was quite determined to not have years of his life robbed away for a crime he did not commit. In 1983 he escaped from prison and spent 10 years avoiding the punishment which had been wrongly assigned to him. Unfortunately, his freedom was once again cut short when he was apprehended and re-incarcerated in the early 90s. In 2003 he filed a motion to have DNA from the crime tested for the first time. In 2005 the DNA results proved that the assailant was not Orlando Boquete and he had been wrongfully convicted. He was exonerated on May 23, 2006 and was released from custody on August 22nd of the same year.

1156197608_850215_0000000000_sumario_normalWe spoke to Orlando for the writing this post, and he was happy to report that things have been going well in his post-exoneration life. He is currently living in the Naples area, where he is enjoying his long-deserved freedom. Currently, he is working on obtaining U.S. citizenship, as well as his much-deserved compensation for the years he spent wrongfully imprisoned.

In his free time he enjoys spending time around athletes and being in an environment which supports athletics. At the time of our phone call he was very excited to be supporting a friend and fellow Cuban athlete who was preparing for an upcoming sporting event. On a less happy note (but one that highlights the long-term impact of wrongful convictions), he stated that while he was happy about his upcoming anniversary, he will not be able to truly celebrate until he is once again able to see his family in Cuba. Sadly, due largely to his conviction and issues relating to it, Orlando has not been able to see his family for 35 years. However, he was very excited about the fact that he will be moving to Tallahassee in a month. He stated that he is making the move to be closer to the Innocence Project of Florida, whom he calls “his family”.

We are truly happy for Orlando and we are very excited to celebrate the anniversary of justice being restored in his life.

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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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MAYDAY: A Call of the Innocent

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 21, 2013 @ 3:20 PM — Comments (0)

Mayday, mayday, mayday!

This universal call is used to signal and aid individuals who are in distress and seeking assistance. The term is mainly used by marines and aviators; however, in some countries it is also used by law enforcement, fire departments and transportation groups.

The mayday call, which originated in the early 1920s, comes from the French words “venez m’iader,” which means “come and help me.” After a mayday call is given and if there is no response from the coast guard or any person designated to assist within two minutes, any person who hears the call for distress is required to perform a mayday relay, which is a call by one vessel on behalf of another.

IPF has vigorously worked for 10 years to aid persons in distress as a result of wrongful convictions. Exonerees such as, Orlando Boquete, William Dillon and Derrick Williams, to name a few, are perfect examples of successful mayday relays.

The United States of America prides itself on having the best criminal justice system in the world. Sadly it has been proven time and time again that the system is not immune to human error and in some cases, willful misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement, and outright lies by jailhouse snitches. An innocent person, generally, believes that the justice system will do nothing but protect them, and do its best to eradicate the actual criminals.

Boquete, Dillon and Williams, collectively, spent 58 years in prison before their “mayday calls” were answered. Like all exonerees, Dillon made multiple cries for help; “to anyone who might listen” is how Dillon describes his desperate pleas. Finally with the help of IPF and assistant public defender Mike Pirolo, DNA testing on a key piece of evidence proved that Dillon was innocent. Dillon’s distress calls were finally answered after more than 27 years.

Williams’ sister-in-law took the first step in successfully performing a mayday relay on his behalf. With the help of IPF, Williams was finally able to go home after serving 18 years in prison.

Later this week Orlando will celebrate the 7th anniversary of his exoneration – the day his call for help was answered.

Place yourself in the shoes of Boquete, Dillon, or Williams – imagine spending years locked away from loved ones, family and friends; imagine not being able to fulfill the goals you mapped out for yourself; imagine not being able to make choices of what to eat and where to go. The small things we take for granted everyday are the things they missed, because the system failed and they were convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Because prosecutors, judges, and the State have turned their backs and ignore the cries of the innocent, IPF will continue to respond to mayday calls from those in Florida’s prisons.

It is everyone’s obligation to assist after hearing a mayday call, a cry from the wrongfully convicted, a cry that will prove to be the first step in unlocking the truth. Your assistance can be in many forms – share this post, tell others about IFP and our work, and provide financial support so we can bring home the innocent still in prison.

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Steppin’ Out with Florida’s Exonorees

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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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Exoneree Compensation Roundup

Seth — February 22, 2011 @ 4:04 PM — Comments (0)

Lots going on in the world of compensation for exonerees.  This issue regained some traction in the last few weeks with an article in the Orlando Sentinel, which we discussed here.  This has led many to openly question why so many guys who were so clearly wrongfully convicted and incarcerated won’t be compensated. The editorial staff of the Orlando Sentinel, notes in an editorial entitled Florida’s Dirty Hands:

Sure, it’s a tough budget year for Florida. But what a lame excuse for failing to right a terrible wrong.

Three years ago, the Legislature passed a bill authorizing payments for people who are wrongly convicted and sent to prison. The measure designated payments of up to $50,000 for each year they were erroneously locked up. That’s a pretty fair price for wrongfully denying someone their liberty.

The problem is the so-called “clean hands” provision — a provision which, as the Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday, has meant that none of the 12 men cleared by DNA has received a nickel. Some now live in poverty.  The “clean hands” provision bars the state from paying anyone who has a previous felony conviction prior to the wrongful incarceration. Even if the person served his time for that earlier conviction, then was later wrongly imprisoned for decades for a crime he did not commit, he still can’t collect.

What a glaringly obvious injustice.

Fred Grimm, of the Miami Herald, has a much more bombastic take on this law:

All this talk about compensation for wrongful convictions. Not in Florida. Not for the likes of Anthony Caravella.

Why, it’s Caravella who owes Florida — $71.93 a day. Comes to $682,615.70 for the 26 years Anthony mooched room and board off the Florida penal system, taking up valuable prison space for a crime someone committed.

The lousy freeloader. He’s damn lucky the Florida Legislature doesn’t send him a bill.

. . .
Florida did pass a Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act three years ago, after an embarrassing slew of convictions were reversed, most after DNA testing. The law authorized paying innocents $50,000 for every year spent behind bars. It was an “illusory impact,” said Seth Miller, director of the Florida Innocence Project. Miller said the law included a “clean hands” provision that disqualifies a wrongfully convicted prisoner with a prior felony conviction.

“Clean hands” proved to be brilliant money saver for Florida (the only state with such a proviso). Cops don’t find their patsies on the membership rolls of the chamber of commerce. Miramar police knew Caravella from a string of juvenile offenses – the same crimes that now preclude him from compensation.

None of the dozen convicted men cleared by DNA testing in Florida have received compensation. A Sun Sentinel reporter found several afflicted with poverty, living off food stamps. Caravella had spent time in a homeless shelter. Only one, James Bain, who did 35 years of hard time, qualifies under “clean hands” and will likely get his money.

After all, William Dillon, who did 27 years on a trumped up murder conviction, had been busted in 1979 for possession of a single Quaalude. Of course, he’s out of the money. In a Kafka-like twist, Orlando Boquete, who did 13 years for a murder and robbery he didn’t commit, doesn’t qualify because he managed to escape prison while serving his wrongful sentence. Luis Diaz, the so-called Bird Road Rapist of Miami-Dade County who, as it turned out, wasn’t, did 25 years. Sorry, Luis. No money.

The list goes on; ruined lives for whom wrongful incarceration compensation remains an illusionary concept. Sorry guys but fairness . . . that’s a budget buster.

Fred makes the good point that these victims of wrongful incarceration don’t have any political clout.  They don’t have money to hire a lobbyist and they don’t have powerful backers with influence.  Without that, there is little chance for the law to be changed to give them some redress.

Two additonal points on compensation:

  • James Bain did a sit-down interview with Channel 10 news in Tampa (w/ video), which led to questions of the new Attorney General about why her office had been sitting on his application for compensation for the last five months.  Not surprisingly, a little scrutiny moved things along and it looks like Mr. Bain’s compensation will be paid imminently.

  • However, it is not all good news for exonerees seeking compensation.  Texas exoneree Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, will not receive his compensation for wrongful incarceration because of a simple error in the order exonerating him.  Even though the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge all agreed that Graves was “actually innocent,” these magic words required by the Texas compensation statute, were omitted from the judge’s order.  His lawyers are trying to remedy this but they are getting little help from the prosecutor or the Governor.

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Join Two Exonerees & IPF Staff for Movie on Nov. 4th

Alejandra de la Fuente — November 01, 2010 @ 12:08 PM — Comments (0)

Alan Crotzer and Orlando Boquete, both Florida DNA exonerees, will join IPF staff and board members on Thursday, November 4th for a reception before the 7:30 p.m. showing of the new movie Conviction. The reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hotel Duval and the movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. the Miracle 5 Theater.

We hope you’ll join us for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and the movie. Tickets for both the reception and movie are $25 per person and can be purchased on-line or you can RSVP by contacting Jackie Pugh at 850-561-6767 or by the end of the day Tuesday.

Conviction tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters’ journey to free her brother who had been wrongfully convicted of murder.  The movie stars Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Minnie Driver.

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Two Exonerees at Tallahassee Reception & Movie

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 27, 2010 @ 11:21 AM — Comments (0)

Over the past several weeks, we have talked about and promoted the new movie Conviction. We are very excited about this movie, because it is a powerful story of wrongful conviction, DNA testing, the exoneration of an innocent man and the devastating impact that it has on people’s lives, and because the story is being told on the “big screen”.

The movie Conviction opens in most locations this weekend. We want to encourage everyone to see the movie and to remember that it is based on a true story. In an interview with Larry King on CNN, Betty Anne Waters said that everything in the movie truly happened – that there really wasn’t any “artistic license” taken in the making of the movie.

For folks in Tallahassee, please join us on Thursday, November 4th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a reception at the Hotel Duval before seeing the movie at 7:30 p.m. at the Miracle 5. The reception will be attended by two exonerees, Alan Crotzer and Orlando Boquete. These two men spent years locked away from their families for crimes they didn’t commit and were later exonerated through DNA testing. Tickets for the reception and movie are $25 per person and can be purchased on-line.

Please join us in the continuing discussion of wrongful conviction.

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Florida DNA Exoneree Gets Help in Fight Against Deportation

Seth — October 15, 2009 @ 11:13 AM — Comments (1)

2006 Florida DNA exoneree, Orlando Boquete, is currently fighting against deportation proceedings by the United States government.  Orlando was convicted of rape in the early 1980s and was freed in 2006 after DNA testing proved he did not commit that crime.  After his exoneration he was immediately detained by Homeland Security and imprisoned again in Krome detention facility awaiting deportation to Cuba because he had the audacity to escape from his wrongful incarceration.  His lawyers struck a deal with the feds to allow him to remain in the country and defer a deportation decision.

Well, decision time is upon us and Orlando is getting some high-level help.  Former US Attorney General, Janet Reno has penned a letter to Homeland Security in support of Orlando’s permanent residence.  The Miami Herald reports that in her letter she states:

While no official action can give him back those years, allowing him to earn a living and rebuild his life in his adopted country as a permanent resident without facing continued uncertainty about the risk that he will be deported, is an important step.

Reno is right, especially because Orlando has been a law-abiding, productive member of the Florida Keys community since his release, volunteering on behalf of tornado relief victims in north Florida and volunteering at an in-patient guidance clinic.  Sandy D’Alemberte, former President of the American Bar Association, also submitted a letter of support.

Hopefully, the deportation board will exercise some common sense and recognize that Orlando has a greater potential to continue to be positive asset in his community if they put him on the path to citizenship.

It is the least it can do for taking away the best years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit.

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