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The Ohio Innocence Project has won the release of Douglas Prade, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his ex-wife in 1998. A new DNA test found that bite marks previously attributed to Prade and largely responsible for his conviction could not have been left by him.
In the wake of a new motion filed by the Center on Wrongful Convictions, asking for a new trial for Ronald Taylor, both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times published editorials in support of giving Taylor the chance to prove his innocence. Records show that Taylor was in police custody on a disorderly conduct charge at the time the murder he was convicted of committing occurred.
California Innocence Project exoneree Brian Banks appeared on American Public Media's The Story to talk about his false rape conviction and the years it took to clear his name.
Death row exoneree Ronald Kitchen, a client of both the Center on Wrongful Convictions and Life After Innocence, is seeking to depose former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley as part of his lawsuit against former police Commander Jon Burge and the City of Chicago.
The Duke Law Innocence Project has filed a motion asking a court to overturn the murder conviction of Charles Ray Finch, who was convicted of the 1976 murder of Richard Lynn Holloman. Finch has served more than 36 years in prison.
Life After Innocence and exoneree James Kluppelberg were profiled in a Chicago Tribune piece about the hardships exonerees can still face even after their wrongful convictions have been overturned. Cook County prosecutors plan to oppose Kluppelberg's application for a certificate of innocence and without it, he is unable to receive compensation and cannot find employment.
The Pershing Square Foundation today announced a $1 million grant to support the Innocence Project's shift toward having wider systemic impact on criminal justice policy at the federal and state level. The grant, the largest in the organization's history, will support the Innocence Project's state-based policy advocacy as well as its core legal, policy and communications work. Crain's New York Business reports:
The grant will help the organization educate, train and work cooperatively with law enforcement to implement best practices and support non-lobbying advocacy that seeks to improve eyewitness identification procedures and expand access to post-conviction DNA testing for people trying to prove their innocence.
The Pershing Square Foundation, started in 2006 by Bill Ackman and his wife Karen, aims to support organizations that help create social change. Since its inception, it has donated more than $160 million in the areas of economic development, education, healthcare, human rights, the arts and urban development.
Read the full article.
Despite the formation of Anita Alvarez' Cook County Integrity Unit last year, prosecutors continue to resist claims of innocence in confession cases. Daniel Taylor and seven other juveniles were convicted of a Chicago area double murder 20 years ago, even though police records showed that Taylor was incarcerated at the time of the crime. Taylor was 17 years old when he was arrested for disorderly conduct and detained for more than four hours by Chicago police when the murders were committed at 8:45 p.m. on November 16, 1992.
Despite the prosecutions' unwillingness to accept that false confessions occur, especially among juveniles, Taylor has received support from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Illinois Attorney General's office.
Taylor's attorneys from the Center on Wrongful Conviction filed a petition Thursday with the Cook County Circuit Court that confirms there were five current and former police employees who have sworn the records accurately indicate that Taylor was locked up. It also claims that a prosecutor's notes and other documents supporting Taylor's innocence were withheld before trial.
Still, the prosecution remains more convinced by the confession than the police records. The Chicago Tribune reports:
Allegedly, four of the juveniles were in an apartment when the shooting deaths occurred and the other four acted as lookouts. Police said all of them confessed and implicated each other. Taylor, who was taken into custody more than two weeks after the shootings, remembered being arrested the night of the murders. Although those records were presented at trial, Taylor was sentenced to life in prison and is still behind bars.
Read the full article.
Read Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's blog about the case.
Read about the Cook County Conviction Integrity Unit.
The New York City medical examiner's office uncovers more errors, North Carolina introduces legislation to tackle its backlog of samples, and researchers in the UK have developed new technology for police to tag criminal suspects with DNA. Here's this week's round up of forensic news:
In the ongoing review of cases at the New York City medical examiner's office, it was discovered that in more than 50 cases DNA profiles were not loaded into the state database. This error, along with cases containing overlooked biological evidence, led to the firing of the office's deputy director of quality assurance and the suspension of the office's department of forensic biology.
In Texas, the growing backlog of samples at the Austin Police Department crime lab is partially the result of the city's refusal to add more scientists to the staff. However, no national agency regulates backlogs or has standards for how quickly cases should be processed.
Recently proposed legislation in North Carolina aims to reduce a three-year backlog of blood and DNA evidence by creating a new crime lab. The legislation appropriates $17.8 million for the construction and staffing of the lab.
A Massachusetts' man has filed a civil lawsuit against the Hinton State chemist who allegedly falsified conclusive tests on drug samples. The lawsuit claims Annie Dookhan "conducted no scientific testing on the substances [and] falsely recorded that the substances tested positive for cocaine."
Researchers in the U.K. have developed a new technology where DNA can be used to tag suspects, for example in a riot when suspects are dispersed. The controversial technology involves shooting paintball-type bullets filled with a unique DNA signature at individuals so they can later be round up and identified by ultraviolent light.
The American Bar Association drafted a resolution that encourages judges and lawyers to consider a variety of factors when deciding how expert testimony should be presented in court. These resolutions, which could improve testimony from forensic experts and analysts, mirror recommendations from the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report that focuses on forensic research.
Nearly twenty years after Kirk Bloodsworth became the nation's first death row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence, he joined activists against the death penalty last week in Annapolis, Maryland.
Bloodsworth was convicted in March of 1985 for the brutal killing and sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl based largely on eyewitness misidentification. DNA testing conducted in 1992 excluded Bloodsworth as the source. After spending over eight years in prison, two of those years facing execution, he was released in June 1993 and pardoned six months later.
In light of his history, ending executions would be a personal victory for Bloodsworth, according to The New York Times.
Maryland is considering legislation that would eliminate the death penalty in the state. And in recent years, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York abolished the death penalty.
There are 18 people who were exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 229 years in prison - including 202 years on death row - for crimes they didn't commit. These 18 people and similar innocence cases spread doubt about the criminal justice and are the biggest factor in the fight to end the death penalty, according to Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Richard C. Dieter.
Bloodsworth has lobbied against the death penalty in several states since being exonerated and is feeling optimistic about an upcoming Senate vote to abolish capital punishment in the state that wrongfully convicted him and sentenced him to death.
Read the full article.
Read more about Bloodsworth.
Read about the innocent and the death penalty.
The introduction of the Innocence Protection Act of 2003 established the Kirk Bloodsworth Postconviction DNA Testing Program, which provides funding for testing under the act. Learn more about the IPA and read Bloodsworth's remarks on the bill.
Even after a judge exonerates a wrongfully convicted person on the basis of DNA and other evidence, Ohio prosecutors often appeal the ruling, which sparks concern about their commitment to justice.
That's exactly what happened in the case of Douglas Prade, who was declared innocent by a judge and freed last week, and Joseph D'Ambrosio, who was also wrongfully convicted and freed from death row, reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Whatever the reason for appeal, the process can delay or prevent the exonerated from receiving compensation. It's too soon to know how the appeal in Prade's case will turn out, and D'Ambrosio has been battling appeals since a federal judge overturned his conviction in 2006, ruling that prosecutors withheld evidence that might have exonerated him at 1989 trial. Four years later, the presiding judge barred prosecutors from trying him again because they failed to disclose the death of a key witness, reported the Plain Dealer.
Read the full article.
More on Douglas Prade.
More on Joseph D'Ambrosio.
Five years after the Columbus Post-Dispatch published its award-winning series "Test of Convictions," the paper caught up with five men who have been cleared through DNA testing since its publication. Through a collaboration with the Ohio Innocence Project, the series led to the DNA exonerations of four men: Robert McClendon, Raymond Towler, Joseph Fears and David Ayers. A fifth man, Douglas Prade, was freed just last week after DNA testing excluded him in the murder of his ex-wife. The District Attorneys' Office plans to appeal.
"Test of Convictions" uncovered Ohio's flawed evidence-retention system and the state's resistance to post-conviction DNA testing. The series also highlighted the need for DNA testing in the cases of 30 inmates. Of the 30, five were cleared through DNA, four were implicated, seven were denied testing, ten got inconclusive results and the remaining cases are still ongoing.
Just after Prade's release last week, the five exonerees met and shared their common experiences for the first time. The Dispatch Reports:
Read the full article.
Two exonerees from the Central Park Five case, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam, exonerated through DNA testing, will speak tonight after a screening of the Ken Burns documentary about their wrongful convictions. They will appear on a panel with Innocence Project Managing Attorney David Loftis and journalist Herbert Boyd. The event, which is open to the public, will begin at 6:30 in the Kimmel Center at NYU.
Please RSVP to email@example.com
A rare Texas legal proceeding called a "Court of Inquiry" began this morning to consider whether a former Texas prosecutor should face criminal charges for his involvement in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, who served 25 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, Christine. The Innocence Project helped clear Morton through DNA testing, which proved his innocence and implicated another man.
Judge Ken Anderson, who was the district attorney prosecuting Michael Morton in 1987, is accused of concealing several pieces of evidence pointing to Morton's innocence during and after the trial. He has denied any wrongdoing in the prosecution of the case.
Tarrant County Judge Louis Sturns will hear evidence and then issue a ruling or take the matter under advisement. If he determines that Anderson acted unlawfully while prosecuting Morton, he will have to issue an arrest warrant charging Anderson, said the Austin American-Statesman.
Morton always maintained his innocence of the murder of his wife, who was found dead in their home by a neighbor the morning of August 13, 1986. At trial, the prosecution argued that Morton beat his wife to death after she refused to have sex with him upon returning from his 32nd birthday celebration at a restaurant. There were no witnesses or physical evidence linking Morton to the crime.
The Austin American-Statesman lists the following as the hidden evidence:
Read the full article.
Read more about Morton in his case profile and from Sunday's New York Times.
Follow Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck on Twitter live from the courtroom.
Austin American-Statesman staff writer Chuck Lindell is also in the courtroom providing live updates on Twitter.
José Ramón Aniceto Gómez and Pascual Agustín Cruz were exonerated by the Supreme Court of Mexico after almost three years in prison. The Court found that the men's rights were violated by denying them access to an interpreter during trial and that some of the crimes they were charged with never even occurred.
Four claimants have lost their appeals for compensation before the UK's High Court in spite of having been exonerated. The Court has begun applying a new higher standard for the wrongfully convicted to win compensation, one which media outlets have used to brand the innocent as "not innocent enough."
Scottish fingerprint expert Fiona McBride, who wrongly identified a latent print at the center of a murder case, won't be getting her job back due to doubts that her past misidentification would cast a doubt on the accuracy of any future findings.
David Bain, who was exonerated in June 2009 of the murder of his family, has filed a claim at the New Zealand High Court in Auckland against the Minister of Justice over the way she handled his compensation case.
A Kuwaiti man is suing the government for compensation after spending a year in jail for drug crimes he never committed and was convicted of in absentia. Upon his release, the man was able to prove that another man had committed the crimes while impersonating him using a forged passport.
Sexual groping on crowded urban trains is a growing problem in Japan, but so is wrongful convictions of supposed gropers.
By Jovon Ferguson
YCTeen Staff Writer
This story originally appeared in YCteen, a magazine written by New York City teens. YCteen is published by Youth Communication, a non-profit organization that helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing. It is an excerpt from a longer article titled "The Central Park Five," which ponders the question of whether an injustice like the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five could happen today.
As an African-American teenage boy growing up in New York City, I'm not afraid of the society I'm living in, but I am conscious of the threats around me. I keep in mind the history of prejudice, racism, and injustice that America has tucked away in its pocket, and I know I have a target on my back.
I know I'm not safe from being wrongly accused, because it has happened to me and others around me far too often. Every day, when you share long gazes with police as they look you up and down deciding whether to stop you or let you go on, you are reminded of their presence and reputation. You are reminded of the aggressive nature of their stop and frisks, and their tendency to grab anyone who "fits the description." That is the kind of accusation you face as a young black man.
I remember one of my friends telling me about his run-in with the police. They stopped him while he was walking past the basketball courts and cuffed him to one of the poles, searching him and even slapping him as words were exchanged. He had nothing on him.
My point is that injustice is ongoing, large scale or small scale. Things like this continue to occur in our society because there is little opposition. Our vision of what's right has been impaired by racism, fear, and prejudice, and if we don't side with justice, injustice will keep happening. We can't be so quick to turn off our mental light bulbs and not think for ourselves. We can't just brush off the Central Park Five, any more than we can brush off Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin and countless others-they're reflections of our society.
Read the full article and watch the Youth Communication's video interview with Yusef Salaam, a member of the Central Park Five.
Learn more about the Central Park Five case.
Check out our youth sub-site to learn about other wrongfully convicted young people.