Posts Tagged ‘Sandy D’Alemberte’

Award Recipients Announced: Holland & Knight and Martin J. McClain, Esq.

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 24, 2012 @ 5:31 PM — Comments (1)

At our first annual gala on April 27, 2012 we will be giving two very special awards to honor some of the people who inspire IPF with their commitment to justice and the innocence movement.

We are proud to announce that the Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award will go to Holland & Knight LLP. Holland and Knight has a long history of providing substantial assistance to the Innocence Project of Florida. Holland & Knight’s work on our behalf included taking on the bulk of the pro bono representation of our first 40 cases in 2003 to prevent those clients from being time barred by the DNA testing deadline then in effect. Holland & Knight was also the counsel of record in the Luis Diaz and Chad Heins cases, both of which led to exonerations. These are but a few examples of the continuing contributions to the cause of justice made by Holland & Knight over a span of decades, and we are thrilled to be able to honor them for those contributions.

The Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award will go to Martin J. “Marty” McClain. Marty is the post-conviction attorney who represented Frank Lee Smith, in whose name this award is given. Marty also represented Juan Melendez in his post-conviction case. Melendez is a non-DNA Florida exoneree who was on death row and now is an anti-death penalty advocate living in New Mexico. Marty has been tirelessly representing inmates on death row, innocent and guilty alike, since the 1980s. He was chief assistant and director of litigation at the Office of the Capital Collateral Representative and has continued his representations of those on death row in Florida and elsewhere since leaving that office. He is currently in private practice in Ft. Lauderdale. His sterling advocacy is a primary reason that Frank Lee Smith was proven innocent.

“Marty’s work as a post-conviction litigator representing death row inmates has earned him the deserved reputation as a top defender of those in peril of execution.  Among his many successes over the past two decades is the bittersweet posthumous exoneration of Frank Lee Smith. We are so pleased to honor Marty in this way,” said Michael Minerva, IFP’s CEO.

Congratulations to both of our awardees! We’re excited to see them at the gala in April, and will hopefully see you!

Get your tickets to step out with IPF and support justice.

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Innocence Commission – The Ball is in the Florida Supreme’s Court

Seth — March 31, 2010 @ 8:50 AM — Comments (2)

We have had some new news on the Florida Actual Innocence Commission front.  We had previously discussed this idea on Plain Error a few months back here and here.  The Innocence Commission got some mixed news last week.

On March 22, 2009,  Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince sent Senator Mike Haridopolos, the next Senate President, a letter stating:

The court is very much interested in looking at the cases of actual innocence and is considering the establishment of a commission or task force to study this issue and to make recommendations.  We are most appreciative of your interest in and support of this effort, and hope that we can additionally count on the support of the Legislature during this session.

Justice Quince noted that the budget for the Gender Bias Study Commission over a three year period was $321,589, peaking at about $146,000 in fiscal year 1988. The Racial and Ethnic Bias Study Commission had a $378,350 budget over five years, with the highest yearly appropriation at $278,350 in fiscal year 1991.  Of course, Justiece Quince noted, that these figures needed to be adjusted for the passage of time.  This was a very positive letter.

In response to Sandy D’Alemberte’s petition to the Florida Supreme Court to create the Commission by rule, Chief Justice Quince sent Mr. D’Alemberte a separate letter stating that they were denying our petition to create the commission, BUT:

The Court, however, is very much interested in looking at the cases of actual innocence, and is considering the establishment of a commission or task force by Administrative Order,” she wrote. “As we explore the best avenue to make inquiries on this subject, we welcome any input you or your colleagues may have concerning funding sources, etc.

Since the letters, both the Daytona Beach News Journal and Jesse Diner, President of the Florida Bar have made impassioned pleas for the Supreme Court to create this Commission.

So it seems that either the court was blowing smoke or they are completely serious about  implementing the Innocence Commission if they can just find the money in these tough economic times.

Well, as of this morning, we are likely going to find out the Court’s real intentions.  Florida Today is reporting that Senator Mike Haridopolos is seeking to include $200,000 in THIS YEAR’s budget for the establishment of the Innocence Commission.  That funding, as well as his pledge of staff support, should be enough to get this thing off the ground:

“This is really a two-way street,” Haridopolos said. “It will protect accused people who are innocent of crimes, but also give people the confidence to know that the people in prison are guilty.”

Politics is a funny business.  I think it would be fair to say that Senator Haridopolos and I would agree on little in terms of the big public policy issues of the day.  But he has been one of the strongest leaders on innocence issues in his time in the Senate, beginning with his sponsoring of the Dedge compensation bill, continuing with the sponsorship of the Dillon claims bill, and now his pursuit of an Innocence Commission.

Let’s give credit where it is due.  If you get a chance, drop the good Senator a line and thank him for his leadership and commitment to this issue:

District Office:        (321) 752-3131
Tallahassee Office:  (850) 487-5056

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IPF’s New Promotional Video

Seth — March 26, 2010 @ 3:16 PM — Comments (1)

Over the next weeks and months, there will be some changes to our website.  We plan to roll out our new logo.  In anticipation of that, we wanted to give you all a “first-look” at our awesome, new logo in our new promotional video, entitled “Unlock the Truth”.  Enjoy!

If you like it, please share it with your friends, families and colleagues. You can also help our efforts by donating to our case by clicking here.  Thank you to Gary Yordan at Governance, Inc. for making this a reality.

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Innocence Commission is Cooking with Gas

Seth — February 14, 2010 @ 9:00 AM — Comments (1)

As you can see from our Press Release below, IPF’s efforts to create an Actual Innocence Commission in Florida have just been buoyed by one of, if not the most conservative members of the Florida Senate, Mike Haridopolos (R-Brevard).  It is not insiginificant that he also happens to be the next President of the Florida Senate.  He sent a letter this week to Chief Justice fo the Florida Supreme Court, Peggy Quince, supporting and offering legislative assistance in the creation of the Innocence Commission, the creation of which is being considered currently being considered by the court.

The Commission would not determine claims of innocence, which is the primary function of IPF, prosecutors and courts in innocence-based litigation.  However, it would look at those cases where innocence has been determined and find out why those wrongful convictions occurred so it can make recommendations for policy reforms that will prevent wrongful convictions going forward.

Senator Haridopolos has cut his teeth on wrongful conviction issues by being the Senate sponsor on claims bills to compensate Florida DNA exoneress Wilton Dedge and, now, Bill Dillon.  John Torres from Florida Today reports:

“Our goal should be justice,” Haridopolos said. “I’m known as being tough on crime, but let’s make sure the right guy is behind bars.”  He said the letter is a result of his research on a special bill for William Dillon, a Satellite Beach man who spent 27 years in prison before DNA ultimately excluded him from key evidence.Haridopolos said the commission would save the state money by weeding out frivolous lawsuits and keeping guilty inmates from “abusing the system.”  It also would eliminate the need for special compensation bills in the future because it would help limit wrongful incarcerations.

Haridopolos said the commission idea had been “floating around” for a couple of years. He said Florida could use a similar project in North Carolina as a model.  “Their hard work has provided an example of how other states should react when faced with a plethora of wrongful incarcerations,” he wrote.

Reached in Tallahassee Thursday, Haridopolos said the time is ripe for this to happen.  “The criminal justice system is not perfect,” he said. “We need to have something established like this. It will make sure that when a person is sentenced to a life sentence, or even to the death penalty, that they are truly the guilty one.”

This is just more proof that the “Innocence” issue must not be an issue where lines are drawn by party affiliation or political persuasion.  With the support of the legislature and the recent unanimous support of the Florida Bar Board of Governors, the chances of creating this Innocence Commission have dramatically improved.

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Key Senator Expresses Support for Formation of Important Innocence Commission

Seth — February 11, 2010 @ 5:00 PM — Comments (1)

Key Senator Expresses Support for Formation of Important Innocence Commission

Senator Mike Haridopolos Sends Letter to Florida Supreme Court Pledging Legislative Assistance

Tallahassee, Florida —The Petitioners seeking the establishment of an Innocence Commission in Florida have received several signifiant indications of support in recent days.  On February 3, 2010, Senator Mike Haridopolos (R-Brevard County), President designate of the Senate, sent a letter to Chief Justice Peggy Quince expressing support for the formation of an actual innocence commission in Florida that will study the known cases of innocents being wrongfully convicted and incarcerated and use the results of this study to update practices to prevent wrongful convictions in the future.  Senator Haridopolos pledged, “I am confident the Florida Legislature will do all it can to assist in the creation of an Innocence Commission.”

Sen. Haridopolos’ letter follows the action by the Florida Bar Board of Governors adopting a resolution of support by unanimous vote at its last meeting.  Additionally, the Petition has been joined by additional lawyers, including former Attorney General Janet Reno.  In a supplemental petition, the Petitioners also brought to the attention of the court the resolution adopted by the national Conference of Chief Justices in 2005 that speaks in support of efforts such as those proposed by the petition.

For more information on the effort to create an Actual Innocence Commission in Florida please see the following:

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and freeing innocent people in Florida prisons.

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The Florida Actual Innocence Commission

Seth — December 15, 2009 @ 9:00 AM — Comments (10)

This sounds like something every state should have but most states, including Florida, do absolutely nothing to study the cases where someone is later freed based on DNA or other evidence of actual innocence. The innocent person gets out, there is lots of hoopla and it is a wonderful event for them, their family, and their supporters.  But when the lights of the news cameras go out and the buzz from the exonerations fade, all we are left with is the same criminal justice system that wrongfully convicted these individuals in the first place.

IPF Board Member and former ABA president, Sandy D’Alemberte is aiming change all that.  With the support of IPF and dozens of high-profile, esteemed Florida attorneys supporting him, Sandy has filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court to create an Actual Innocence Commission that can study cases of wrongful conviction, find out how and why they happened, and make recommendations for reform based on those findings.

A St. Pete Times editorial states:

On Friday, a group of renowned attorneys that includes former Florida Supreme Court justices, former presidents of the American Bar Association and former Florida Bar leaders, petitioned Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince for the formation of an actual innocence commission. The request is modeled after a similar undertaking in North Carolina that brought together judges, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, victims’ advocates and academics for a two-year review of procedures in the criminal justice system. The commission isolated factors that helped lead to wrongful convictions and recommended changes.

. . .

An innocence commission would comprehensively evaluate investigatory and court procedures, including those for eyewitness identification in cases like Bain’s, and suggest new safeguards. According to the Innocence Project of Florida, witness misidentification contributed to almost 80 percent of the 245 convictions later overturned by DNA testing nationwide.

We should not allow the canard that we have the best criminal justice system int he world to block efforts for reforming a system that is clearly broken.  Wrongful convictions are proof that the system needs help.  A truly healthy criminal justice system is one that recognizes its faults and endeavors to fix them.

This Innocence Commission is a wonderful idea that could pave the way to curing much that is wrong with Florida’s system and it is one we should all support.

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