News 05.31.11

The Innocence Project Online: May 2011

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Innocence Project

Innocence Project
MAY 2011

[ 271 EXONERATED ]

In This Issue


DNA Could Clear Nine Men in Chicago

New Video and Web Resource on Eyewitness Misidentification




Seminar for SC Law Enforcement




Donation Creates New Litigation Position




Why I Give: A Donor Profile

News Watch

Annual Benefit

Gala Honors Betty Anne Waters, Gov. Corzine and Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

The Innocence Project’s Fifth Annual Benefit was held on May 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

Betty Anne Waters, who fought for nearly two decades to clear her brother in Massachusetts, was honored at the event, along with former New Jersey Governor John Corzine and law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel.

Texas Exonerees Urge Legislation to Prevent Wrongful Convictions

Four Texas exonerees joined Sen. Rodney Ellis and Innocence Project of Texas Policy Director Cory Sessions to urge House legislators to pass bills that combat wrongful convictions.

There have been more DNA exonerations in Texas than any other state, with eyewitness misidentification contributing to the majority of them.


Read more

.

Forensic Work Questioned at Military Crime Lab

A McClatchy investigative series revealed additional lapses at the nation’s Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, which could prompt an investigation by the Pentagon. The series exposed several lab analysts at the Atlanta-based USACIL who made false statements, mishandled tests and tampered and destroyed evidence used to convict soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Each year, the lab handles more than 3,000 cases.


Read more.

Florida Panel Calls for Identification Reforms

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing, and flawed lineup procedures are

behind many of these errors. A

Florida panel issued recommendations this month to overhaul the way photo lineups are conducted in the state.

The Florida Innocence Commission, which was founded last year to evaluate the causes of wrongful conviction in the state, issued a report last week calling for the blind administration of lineups, meaning the officer administering the lineup doesn’t know the identity of the suspect in an investigation.


Read more

.

 

What You’re Saying

image

Here are some of our favorite comments from social networks this month:

“The justice system is supposed to be held to a higher standard – wouldn’t it make sense for the justice system to acknowledge such mistakes and compensate for them in keeping with that higher standard? These errors ruin the lives of the wrongfully accused, and the lives of those victimized by an offender who has not been held accountable.” – Marianne M. (via

Facebook)

“Unbelievable on ALL levels… innocent lives ruined while the guilty are free to commit more crimes! Not only do those wrongfully convicted need fair compensation but prosecutors who withhold info. that could prove them innocent should be charged with crimes themselves!” Joanna P. (via

Facebook)

“Did you know, according to @innocenceblog, 22 of the first 265 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they did not commit!” –

@Testedthebook


(via Twitter

)

Help Free the Innocent

With the generous support of individuals like you, the Innocence Project has exonerated scores of innocent people and worked around the country to reform our criminal justice system.


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Get in Touch

We welcome your feedback. Please contact us at the address below.

Cases for review

must be submitted via postal mail. You can also

email us

with questions or for more information.


The Innocence Project


40 Worth St., Suite 701

New York, NY 10013



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DNA Evidence Could Clear Nine Men in Chicago

saunders_barr.jpg

New DNA test results prove that four men were convicted of a 1994 rape and murder they didn’t commit, according to legal papers filed this week by the Innocence Project and partner organizations. The DNA results link another man to the crime, and the four men are seeking to be released from prison based on the new evidence.

The case bears echoes of another in the Chicago area, in which five men convicted of a 1991 murder are seeking to overturn their convictions based on DNA evidence that another man committed the crime. Teenagers when they were arrested, three of the men signed confessions to the crime that they now say were coerced.

In both cases, the Innocence Project is working with the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (at Northwestern Law School), the Exoneration Project (at the University of Chicago Law School) and private attorneys. Pictured above, left to right, are Innocence Project clients Michael Saunders (convicted in the 1994 case) and Jonathan Barr (convicted in the 1991 case).

Read more about the two cases in

today’s Chicago Tribune story

and on

the Innocence Blog.



New Video and Web Resource on Eyewitness Misidentification

Convicting the Innocent

In cooperation with the Innocence Project, University of Virginia Law Professor Brandon Garrett unveiled the first section of a new video and interactive web feature on the causes of wrongful conviction on the Innocence Project website.

Garrett recently published


Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong.


After carefully studying the first 250 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing, Garrett notes that “eyewitness misidentifications were the single greatest cause of flawed evidence.”

Garrett highlights the case of Ronald Cotton to pinpoint some of the key factors that cause faulty identifications. North Carolina college student Jennifer Thompson misidentified Ronald Cotton as her rapist, leading to Cotton spending 10 years in prison before DNA finally exonerated him in 1995.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.


View the video and web resource on our website

.



Innocence Project Sponsors Seminar for South Carolina Law Enforcement Officials

Supreme Court

Last month, in conjunction with the Palmetto Innocence Project of South Carolina, the Innocence Project sponsored a seminar for South Carolina law enforcement officials, prosecutors and other legal professionals. During the seminar, participants reviewed advancements in identification methods and recording of interrogations.

Rebecca Brown, Senior Policy Advocate for State Affairs at the Innocence Project, traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to facilitate the training.

“Wrongful convictions have shown that serious flaws have caused our criminal justice system to convict scores of innocent people,” Brown said. “Several easy-to-implement procedures have been proven to significantly decrease the number of misidentifications, including sequential presentation of lineups and the electronic recording of interrogations.”

The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions. To decrease the opportunity for suggestion in identification procedures, best practices dictate that lineups and photo arrays be performed double blind, meaning that the officer who conducts the procedure doesn’t know the suspect and the witness is told that the officer doesn’t know.


Read more about the training

and learn about

eyewitness identification

and

false confessions

.



Jason Flom Donation Establishes Senior Litigation Position at the Innocence Project

Video

Innocence Project Board of Directors member and President of LAVA Records, Jason Flom, has donated $1 million to the Innocence Project to support a new position in honor of his late father Joseph Flom. Pictured above, left to right, Innocence Project Co-Directors Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, with Jason Flom.

The new position, to be named The Joseph Flom Special Counsel, will significantly increase the capacity of the Innocence Project to address the causes of wrongful conviction. Flom announced the new position at the Innocence Project’s annual benefit at the Waldorf Astoria on May 4.

“Jason’s contribution will have an impact in law that would be an appropriate tribute to the groundbreaking legal work of his father Joseph Flom and the enormous impact his life has had in advancing justice in the United States,” said Innocence Project Co-founder Peter Neufeld.

Joseph Flom, who passed away in February, was a pioneering corporate lawyer and will be remembered as an innovator and groundbreaker who overcame barriers in his work.

The Joseph Flom Special Counsel will bring impact litigation to set wide-ranging precedents that advance criminal justice reforms. It will also support the work of lawyers across the country that work to free the innocent with evidence other than DNA.

“For nearly a decade, the Flom family’s generosity has been vital to the progress the Innocence Project has made in our efforts to free the innocent and bring essential reforms to the criminal justice system,” said Innocence Project Co-founder Barry Scheck.


Read More.





Joy


Why I Give: A Donor Profile


Lisa Eby


Planner Evaluator

Asheville, North Carolina

I donate to the Innocence Project in honor of close friends and family members on their birthdays. It is my way of celebrating their life and giving promise to the restoration of another’s life. To me, it gives new meaning to a birthday and it’s been really well received. People have been thrilled because it’s meaningful and it has significant purpose.

I used to be a child protective social worker, so I’m acutely aware of systemic barriers that bias people to these inexorable paths. I fostered a young black male who was the same age as my son. So I got a front row seat in watching the trajectory of his life compared to my son’s. My son graduated high school and went on to study at MIT. My foster child has been in and out of jail due to miscellaneous charges, and I have watched him get churned through a system that is stacked against him. For me, wrongful conviction is just another example, and one of the most devastating, of putting people behind bars that shouldn’t be there.

The Innocence Project offers the hope that we can expose systemic bias and the injustice of institutional racism. Incarcerated individuals are so conveniently out of sight and out of mind. It’s the biggest gated community in our country. The Innocence Project forces those doors open and makes each of us accountable for a system we tacitly support.


Join Lisa by

making a donation today

in honor of a friend’s birthday, graduation or other special occasion.

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