Posts Tagged ‘perjury’

Reasons for Exoneration: Perjury or False Accusation

Victoria Inzana — October 20, 2017 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Most people believe that the only reason innocent individuals are exonerated is due to new DNA evidence being revealed in their case. This blog series, Reasons for Exoneration, is intended to highlight the work that the Innocence Project accomplishes on cases that do not focus solely on DNA evidence.

This post is intended to focus on the role of perjury or false accusations in an exoneree’s trial. Perjury is known as the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. False accusations are when someone knowingly makes a charge of wrongdoing against another person. These perjury claims are usually proven based on a discrepancy between an initial deposition of a witness and their testimony on the stand. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 73 total exonerations in the year 2016 where perjury played a heavy role in the exoneration.

An example of a case occurred in Miami-Dade County. The defendant, Derrick Robinson had fit the description of a murderer, and so was arrested. During trial, there was an eyewitness who declared that Robinson was the killer. Robinson, who had claimed his innocence until trial had pled guilty to second-degree murder in 1989. After his conviction, another eye-witness came forward and identified a different man as the perpetrator. He revealed the actual perpetrator had threatened his family which leads to his false eye-witness report. After this new information was revealed, Robinson was exonerated in 1991.

If the testimony of the witness who had committed perjury or made a false accusation was an extremely large contribution to the initial conviction of our exonerate, and if it is possible for the representative of the Innocence Project to prove that perjury or a false accusation has happened, it is essential to an exoneree’s case.

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Cook County, Illinois Leads the Nation in Wrongful Convictions

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 18, 2012 @ 9:12 AM — Comments (0)

Data from a new National Registry of Exonerations has placed Cook County as the number one place for wrongful convictions of violent crimes. Since 1989, 101 cases have been overturned in Illinois, 78 were from Cook County.

Many of the convictions on the list, in Cook County, include cases overseen by disgraced Chicago police commander, Joe Burge, who was convicted of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. Burge was accused of torturing more than 200 criminal suspects, between 1972 and 1991, into false confessions.

The top 10 states include:

1.Illinois                 101
2.New York            88
3.Texas                   84
4.California             79
5.Michigan              35
6.Louisiana             34
7.Florida                  32
8.Ohio                     28
9.Massachusetts     27
10.Pennsylvania     27

One could assume the high number of wrongful convictions can be attributed to heavily populated areas, however the National Registry of Exonerations reports that these areas have strong presence of wrongful convictions centers and innocence projects.

Meaning that these states probably don’t have the highest number of wrongful convictions, they are just better at overturning them. It is estimated that Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions is responsible for a third of Illinois exonerations.

The report also states that because exonerations are not centralized, many exonerations remain unknown. Some of the unknown exonerations include low profile cases and those concealed from the public attention.

While the number of wrongful convictions in Illinois is alarming and even disturbing, it is reassuring to know that where there is a willing and active group of people fighting to overturn wrongful convictions, innocent people will have a higher chance of gaining the justice they deserve.

Read more

Read the full report from the National Registry of Exonerations.

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Witness Misidentification: Costs, Causes, and Cures

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 09, 2012 @ 10:39 AM — Comments (0)

Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions web site states that, “erroneous eyewitness testimony — whether offered in good faith or perjured — is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S. criminal justice system. According to The Innocence Project’s site, eyewitness misidentification plays a role in over 75 percent of cases that are overturned by DNA evidence. Looking at these numbers, it seems a bit ridiculous that the justice system would consider eyewitness testimony to be sacrosanct pieces of evidence, and yet they are.

Why exactly is it that witness misidentifications are so prevalent? The answer, frankly, is simple, and can be seen in social science research that has been conducted over the past 30 years. The Innocence Project makes a comparison between the human mind and tape recorders, asserting that the human mind is clearly not capable of taking in, processing, and recording exact details and events the way that a video camera or tape recorder can, and for that reason alone human memories should be taken as possibilities, not facts. Further, witnesses often experience some level of victimization as a result of being so closely involved with crime, and anyone who has been a victim of a crime can attest to the way that victimization affects one’s memory.

For a more engaging way to see the flaws of human perception and memory, watch this video. If you read ahead before watching, you’ll cheat yourself out of the experience!

Don’t read ahead…watch the video first.

Did you notice the moonwalking bear? I know I certainly did not when I first watched the video, but after viewing it again I cannot imagine how I missed it. If the human mind isn’t able to notice something so different while sitting in a calm, controlled environment, then how can it possibly be expected to register events under the stress undergone when watching a crime take place?

All of these things said, however, witness identifications and testimonies can be useful and powerful tools of the criminal justice system, if used correctly. There are a variety of steps that could be taken to decrease the probability of misidentification. Most of these measures could be implemented easily and with little to no cost to law enforcement, the legal system, or taxpayers.

Use of a double-blind procedure in orchestrating lineups could seriously cut down on accidental or intentional influencing of witnesses. This double-blind would ensure that neither the administrator or the lineup nor the witness would know which individual was the suspect. There is also a lineup protocol currently endorse by Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the MacArthur Justice Center that, in addition to using a double-blind procedure, presents suspects sequentially as opposed to placing them all side by side. This method is said to reduce the tendency of witnesses to make relative judgements about the suspects, which can often lead to misidentifications.

These methods are incredibly simple to implement and cost little-to-nothing to implement. If law enforcement agencies nationwide were to adopt these methods, they could seriously decrease the largest cause of wrongful convictions. In April of last year the Florida Senate passed a bill known as the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act. This bill would have implemented the above procedures and would also have instituted the use of educational materials and training for law enforcement officers regarding how to conduct a lineup, as well as a standard set of instructions for eyewitnesses before viewing the lineup. Unfortunately, the bill stalled and was ultimately withdrawn from consideration in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, there is not a similar bill being proposed during this legislative session. I guess the citizens of Florida will have to wait until next year.

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Alejandra de la Fuente — June 29, 2009 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (0)

Patricia Phillips writes for the out of Oklahoma, but she’s heard of John Preston. That’s how far-flung his chicanery and fraud were. She writes today for the website in part of a new series exposing Preston, and she has what is possibly the best Preston lede I’ve read yet:

The situation in Brevard County, FL was so bad that one prosecutor resigned because he couldn’t stand the lies any more.

Hop over and check out the story. More news is good news.

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Friday Roundup

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 08, 2009 @ 10:40 AM — Comments (0)

Though Colorado failed to abolish the death penalty yesterday, they did manage to ban texting while driving.

Add this to the list of bad signs coming out of the Obama Administration DOJ – when can we connect the dots between all the bad signs and officially become disappointed? – from TalkLeft: DOJ Argues FBI Had No Duty to Disclose Evidence of Perjury.

A good editorial, not to be missed, out of the DeMoines RegisterLet plaintiffs sue for prosecutorial abuse.

Finally, from the “You can’t write this stuff” department, Matt Kelley, author of the Criminal Justice blog on Change.orgtweeted this morning about a program called “Mock Prison Riot.” The idea is to either participate in or watch trained professionals diffuse a staged prison riot and learn from the techniques used. Matt asks, “Is this a reality show or real prison guard training?” More than a little surreal.

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Palm Beach Post coverage of Dillon speaking event

Alejandra de la Fuente — May 04, 2009 @ 11:25 AM — Comments (0)

The Palm Beach Post has an article today on Bill Dillon’s speaking engagement at the Rotary Club in Wellington, Florida that took place Friday.

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New Study: Providing Incentives to Snitches Increases False Information

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 26, 2009 @ 11:00 AM — Comments (0)

From TalkLeft:

The results of the first behavioral study to investigate whether people will provide false secondary confessions raises significant concerns about the use of such evidence when informants are offered incentives. The study was conducted by psychological researchers at the University of Arkansas.

A “secondary confession” is a polite name for snitching. A news article on the study is here. The study is now published in the Journal of Law and Human Behavior in an article titled “Snitching, Lies and Computer Crashes: An Experimental Investigation of Secondary Confessions.”

Bottom line: “[A]n incentive increased the rate of false rather than true secondary confessions.”

The blog also has a fuller explanation of how the study worked, but the bottom line is the bottom line. The authors of the study provide these suggestions:

The concern is partly based on confessions being assumed to be the end-all and be-all of trial evidence, when at least in the case of secondary confessions they should be treated as hearsay,” Swanner said.

She and Beike suggested several safeguards, including video recordings of all interviews and interrogations of informants and suspects as well as pretrial hearings and expert testimony to allow jurors to better assess the validity of secondary confessions entered as evidence.

“It is essential for jurors, prosecutors and judges to be informed about the potentially biasing nature of incentives to confess,” they concluded. “Snitches may indeed lie or come to believe a falsehood about another to be the truth. Jurors must be able to consider this possibility as they make their verdicts.

To learn more about what can be done to prevent false confessions as well, read our page here.

Visit IPF’s Website here; sign up to volunteer here; contribute to our work here.

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Bill Dillon speaks publicly in Melbourne, Florida

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 09, 2009 @ 10:26 AM — Comments (0)

On Saturday night, William Dillon spoke to a crowd at the Space Coast Progressive Alliance’s “Audacity of Hope” event at the Florida Institution of Technology. Florida Today covered the event.

“Many years, I waited for something to happen,” he said. “I wrote anyone I could; anybody that I thought would listen, and I got no replies. Nobody was listening.”

He cited the manipulation of witnesses, the lack of DNA testing at the time and unreliable sources for his conviction and credited the Innocence Project of Florida for his freedom.

You can read about William Dillon’s case on our website here.

The Innocence Project of Florida’s Assistant Director, Toni Shrewsbury (right) was in attendance.

Update: Some coverage in the blog of John Simpson, an attendant at the Progressive Celebration event:

[Bill Dillon is] tall, maybe six-two, and speaks clearly and plainly in a laconic voice of his experiences behind bars and in the courtroom, of his life in general. His speech is marked by candor, not rancor. He does not appear to be bitter. He’s adapted readily to the use of cell phones, devices which didn’t exist (except in crazy inventors’ feverish imaginations) when he went in. At a restaurant or among a crowd of people, he’s always looking around, alert, amazed. That he can find his way around Brevard County, where he still lives, is another source of constant surprise: whole neighborhoods have sprung up in his absence; new shopping malls exist where, a quarter-century ago, the wind blew across empty fields and marshes.

What he’s been through (and how well he went through it) boggles the mind. That he’s nowhere near the first — and certainly not the last — to have gone through it feels, well, impossible.

Visit IPF’s Website here; sign up to volunteer here; contribute to our work here.

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Wrongfully incarcerated, recently exonerated Brevard resident William Dillon to address public for the first time this Saturday

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 02, 2009 @ 3:00 PM — Comments (1)

Brevard resident William Dillon, who served over 27 years for a crime he did not commit, will make his first address to the public since his exoneration in November 2008, joining the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) on stage at the Gleason Center, Florida Tech campus, 6:00pm, Saturday, March 7, 2009 at the 5th Annual Progressive Celebration hosted by the Space Coast Progressive Alliance and co-sponsored by WFIT 89.5FM.

Dillon will join IPF Assistant Director Toni Shrewsbury during an award ceremony recognizing the work that IPF has done since their inception in 2003, resulting in the release of ten wrongfully incarcerated Floridians who, through DNA testing, were proven factually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. In addition to obtaining the freedom of these individuals, IPF’s work has resulted in widespread recognition of the need to reform the state criminal justice system, where fundamental problems have been identified in the areas of eyewitness identification, false confessions, evidence preservation, crime lab oversight, access to DNA testing, and exoneree compensation. IPF has received over 2000 inquiries/requests for assistance in proving the innocence of individuals currently incarcerated.

Dillon’s 27 years in jail represent the longest time served by any of the 232 individuals exonerated nationwide as a result of DNA test results. Dillon was exonerated when his innocence of a 1981 murder was proved by DNA evidence that came as a result of a 2007 motion filed by IPF and attorney Mike Pirolo. Dillon was subsequently released November 18, 2008.

The state’s case against Dillon was based largely on the testimony of an admitted perjurer who had a sexual liaison with the case’s lead investigator during the investigation, a fraudulent dog scent expert, a partially blind eyewitness and an individual whose own charges in a rape case were dropped in exchange for his testimony, which included numerous details at odds with known facts in the case.

Both Dillon and Shrewsbury will be joining Progressive Celebration attendees at a pre-event reception greeting Bob Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause, a 400,000 member nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen lobby for reforms that make government at all levels more open, honest, and accountable, and re-engages citizens with civic responsibility. Edgar will then keynote the celebration with a talk addressing the challenges facing the Obama administration in meeting its promises for education, health care and energy policy. Edgar will specifically address key reforms that have taken hold in other states and how such reforms can be pursued in Florida. Celebration attendees will have the opportunity to question Edgar about Fair Districting, public campaign financing, and other fundamental reforms directed toward government accountability and the campaign/election process. Edgar’s talk will follow a live music performance by Evan Greer, RiotFolk musician, performing original songs of citizen empowerment, sustainability and social justice. Concerned citizens of all ages are invited and urged to attend.

Doors open at 6pm to the event, which benefits both WFIT 89.5FM, a public radio station serving South Brevard and Indian River County, and the Space Coast Progressive Alliance, a local grassroots citizen lobby for progressive public policies.

Tickets are available from WFIT 89.5FM (321-674-8950 or

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Event Info
5th Annual Progressive Celebration
an evening of inspiration and information
hosted by Space Coast Progressive Alliance
co-sponsored by WFIT 89.5 FM

Saturday, March 7, 2009 on campus, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 W University Blvd, Melbourne FL 32901

5-6:30pm – Pre-event Party, Meet & Greet Reception in Hartley Room, Student Union Building. Limited attendance, tickets required.
6:00pm – Doors open at Gleason Performing Arts Center for Progressive Celebration
6:15pm – Live Music with Evan Greer, RiotFolk Music Collective
7:00pm – Welcome and Award Presentation to Innocence Project of Florida, followed by keynote speech by Bob Edgar, President & CEO of Common Cause
Presentation title: “The Audacity of Hope vs. Pay-to-Play Politics: Obama’s Challenge
8:45pm – Edgar book signing, progressive information tabling, music resumes

Tickets available from WFIT (online at or call 321-674-8950)
$20 advance / $25 at the door, if available
$10 students
$60 tickets

MEDIA welcome with press credentials/identity.



Innocence Project of Florida Assistant Director Toni Shrewsbury: 850-561-6767 or

Common Cause: Mary Boyle, VP Communications, via Mike Surrusco 202-736-5788 or, or John Briscoe, VP Development, 202-841-4507 or

Common Cause Florida: Alex Chavez, 941-706-1877 or 941-737-1447,

Evan Greer, RiotFolk Musician: or or 978-852-6457

Local event co-chair: Cammie Donaldson, 321-917-1960 or
Local event co-chair & pre-event reception chair: Susan Martin, 321-773-1276 or zulu2@cfl.rr.

# # #

Space Coast Progressive Alliance (SCPA) is a Florida nonprofit corporation supported by membership dues, donations, and event ticket sales. Nonpartisan by strongly progressive and politically active, SCPA encourages citizen engagement in the political process and seeks to advance progressive public policy at the local, state and national level. Click here to visit their website.

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The Moral Case for Investigating Brevard County

Alejandra de la Fuente — December 01, 2008 @ 1:57 PM — Comments (0)

I’ve seen a disconcerting sentiment expressed by some of the comments on sites like FloridaToday that have covered the release of William Dillon. A good number of people seem to think that an investigation into the questionable practices of Brevard County would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I couldn’t disagree more.

If money is really their principle concern, these cynics would do well to realize that, depending on the number of people freed by these investigations, it might be cheaper to organize an investigation than it would be to keep those prisoners incarcerated for the rest of their sentences. But that argument has a particularly callous ring to it, and for a good reason.

The real motivation is not money, obviously, but the administration of justice. Why is the government commissioned by the people? I have said previously that Governor Crist is charged with faithfully executing the laws and the Constitution. The presence of innocent people in prison represents a serious miscarriage of justice. . Furthermore, when reasonable people have cause to believe in a pattern of widespread injustice, the government has a responsibility to right its wrongs.

Taxpayer money spent on such an endeavor would not be a waste, nor even a luxury: this is the fundamental purpose of government.

When we say things like, “the evidence merits an investigation,” there is a missing premise, but it’s one most people would agree with. It is that one of the duties of government is not only to administer justice fairly, but to act diligently when a corruption of justice is apparent. That is why we are calling for such an investigation.

Visit IPF’s Website here; sign up to volunteer here; contribute to our work here.

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