Yes, this is one huge, disastrous consequence of bad cops, bad prosecutors, and otherwise tainted evidence, and it is another reason for YOU to raise hell about it!
Excerpts from the Article:
Disastrous. That’s what one attorney is calling the rapidly growing evidence scandal that has swept the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and that threatens to alter the criminal justice landscape in one of California’s largest counties.
The ramifications are real: Orange County’s guilty could go free; the innocent wrongly jailed on convictions built on tainted evidence – or evidence that was never filed at all. Thousands of criminal cases in this Southern California megalopolis of more than 3.2 million people are now potentially tainted after a week of back-to-back bombshells: internal reports revealing that hundreds of sheriff’s deputies sat on evidence and dozens of others lied about filing it.
Now Orange County Sheriff’s officials are blasting assertions by the county’s assistant public defender, Scott Sanders, that deputies failed to book evidence in as many as 9,000 cases and are fielding terse demands from the county’s district attorney for more information in the wake of the audits that showed two years of nearly department-wide evidence mishandling.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2018 undertook a pair of evidence audits. The first one looked at almost 99,000 police reports over a two-year period. It showed evidence in 30 percent of the reports was mishandled in some way, and the department did not retain evidence in nearly 72,000 cases.
The internal audit randomly sampled 450 reports out of the nearly 72,000 cases flagged in the first report. Of those, deputies filed 121 reports stating they collected and booked evidence. The auditor’s findings: no evidence was booked in nearly half of the sampled reports — 57 — in which deputies said they had, or about 13 percent of the 450 cases reviewed, according to the audit.
Sanders’ projection that 9,000 cases were mishandled over two years stems from the numbers in the second audit. The Sheriff’s Department argues Sanders is exaggerating.
“The department should forever be prohibited from using the word ‘disingenuous.’ Their exact figures are the figures to use. We’re looking at 450 cases out of 72,000. We’re going to stand by their numbers: it’s more likely to be 9,000 than 57,” Sanders said on Nov. 26. “We do the calibrations and they call us ‘disingenuous.’ That’s absurd.”
“We’ve been ripped off on thousands of cases. We had no idea,” Sanders said. “This is the sixth-largest county in the nation. There’s an enormous amount of cases they touch here.”
“As of yet, we still do not have the audit nor have we received a response to the (Nov. 21) letter we sent to the Sheriff’s Department requesting additional information about cases where evidence was not properly booked,” Orange County Chief Assistant District Attorney Shawn Nelson said in a Monday statement.
“This is not a dispute between departments. This is a sheriff’s issue,” Nelson’s statement began. “Now our office is fully apprised of the scope, we know what our duty is and it is unquestionable,” he said, calling the sheriff’s department’s failure to turn over or disclose the audits “mystifying.”
“The defense relied on these statements that were not true,” he said. “Under these circumstances, courts would reverse convictions. Some courts would have to see whether the evidence was material, but others might say it’s so outrageous, we have to deter others from doing it again. “Either way,” Feldman concluded, “anybody convicted by this would have a heck of a civil suit.”
Arrested as teens, three men exonerated after 36 years behind bars for wrongful murder conviction Baltimore prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit finds men are innocent in 1983 slaying of 14-year-old, shot in school hallway for his jacket
I free innocent people, but the cases do not make the news. Why? Because I focus on getting them OUT before they die in prison – Commutation/Clemency, which takes about 2 years, start to finish. AND I SUCCEED. Once out, THEN they can prove their innocence! 🙂
DO WHAT WORKS! Look at these three guys; they were filing legal shit for 36 years. 36 YEARS! This was another case of police misconduct, one of the leading causes of these injustices.
The conviction of innocent people is the most dramatic example of how fucked up the system is. Thousands of innocent people sit behind bars in America! The problem is so bad that many prosecutors have a Unit or Department to review claims of innocence. Philadelphia’s unit has exonerated 10 murder defendants since last year. That’s just one city! It’s outrageous.
Excerpts from the Article:
In the hallway of his Baltimore middle school one afternoon in November 1983, DeWitt Duckett, 14, was shot and killed for his Georgetown University jacket. The attack was shocking — the first killing in a Baltimore city school. And the pressure to solve the case was intense.
Early on Thanksgiving Day that year, police arrested three teenagers who were eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. On Monday, 36 years after they were incarcerated, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Charles J. Peters declared them innocent.
“On behalf of the criminal justice system, and I’m sure this means very little to you, I’m going to apologize,” Peters told them. “We’re adjourned.” The packed courtroom erupted in applause, and family members began crying and hugging.
The extraordinary exonerations were set in motion through the perseverance of one of the defendants, Alfred Chestnut, now 52, who never stopped pushing for a review of the case. This spring his claim was picked up by the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which uncovered a flawed case that prosecutors now say encouraged false witness testimony and ignored evidence of another assailant.
On Monday at 5:15 p.m., Chestnut and his childhood friends Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walked out of the courthouse onto North Calvert Street as free men, into the arms of weeping mothers and sisters and fiancees who doubted they would see this day. “This is overwhelming,” said Chestnut, surrounded by cameras, lawyers and family. “I always dreamed of this. My mom, this is what she’s been holding on to forever. To see her son come home.”
The exonerations of Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart are the seventh, eighth and ninth enabled by Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit since she took office in 2015. Mosby visited each man in prison on Friday to give them the news she was asking for their freedom, a moment she called “surreal, incredibly powerful.” She said she told the men: “I’m sorry. The system failed them. They should have never had to see the inside of a jail cell. We will do everything in our power not only to release them, but to support them as they re-acclimate into society.”
Police reports produced soon after the killing revealed that numerous witnesses had told Baltimore investigators that Michael Willis, then 18, was the shooter, prosecutors now say. One student identified him immediately, one saw him run and discard a handgun as police pulled up to Harlem Park Junior High School, one heard him confess to the shooting, and one saw him wearing a Georgetown jacket that night.
Defense attorneys pressed for evidence that cast doubt on their clients’ guilt. In 1984, then-Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Shoup told the court the state had no such reports, despite the fact there were police documents showing that the trial witnesses had twice failed to identify the three defendants in photo lineups as well as statements implicating Willis. A judge sealed the reports. Then, when Chestnut made a public records request to the Maryland attorney general last year, the office turned them over.
Mosby said the case raised a number of problems she intends to address. The teen witnesses were repeatedly questioned without their parents present, she said, and they felt pressured to falsely identify Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart. Mosby is seeking laws to prohibit such questioning by police without a parent, guardian or lawyer.
Maryland also has no working system to compensate exonerees even though such payments are allowed by state law; the government for years has lagged behind other states in making such payments. After months of pressure from advocates and dozens of lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the Maryland Board of Public Works recently initiated a process to pay $9 million to five exonerees who collectively served more than 120 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Mosby said she will lobby for a formalized compensation process for all exonerees. The three men in this case declined to comment on whether they would seek money for their wrongful convictions.
And Mosby said there is no support system for those who walk out of prison after years or decades inside. She has created a Resurrection After Exoneration program to connect exonerees with mental and physical health services, education, housing and job opportunities. “I think it’s important and incumbent on us,” Mosby said, “as the system that has wronged them, to be able to take accountability. We’re excited to show that we’re going to support them.”
Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which Executive Director Shawn Armbrust said had acquired a federal grant allowing the prosecutors to hire a full-time investigator who helped track down witnesses in this case. She said actual-innocence cases where prosecutors work together with defense attorneys typically take about a year, and when the cases are contested they take more than seven years.
When Mosby’s office realized there was a possibility of actual innocence, they arranged for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and other lawyers to represent the men. The Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic represented Chestnut, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Christopher Nieto represented Watkins, and Booth Ripke and Rachel Wilson represented Stewart.
About 50 prosecutors across the country have launched Conviction Integrity Units to review old cases. Philadelphia’s unit has exonerated 10 murder defendants since last year. Armbrust said the teen defendants in this case “would never have gotten out without a Conviction Integrity Unit. Nobody could believe multiple witnesses would lie about the same event. You just have to wonder about how many cases there are in places where prosecutors aren’t willing to take a serious look at claims of innocence.”
The main players in the conviction of the three men are gone from the justice system. Kincaid, who was featured in the book “Homicide” by David Simon, retired from the Baltimore police in 1990. He said he did not coerce the witnesses to incriminate the three defendants. “No. Come on, no. Hell no,” Kincaid said.
All three defendants always maintained their innocence, and Watkins’s insistence that he was not involved in the killing was captured by Simon while Simon was trailing Kincaid at the Maryland Penitentiary in July 1988.
“You did it,” Kincaid shot back. “The hell I did,” Watkins told him. “You lied then and you lyin’ now.”
“At 16 years old, they threw me in a prison among a bunch of animals,” Watkins, now 52, said in a phone interview Sunday. “The things I had to go through, it was torture. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Stewart, now 53, said his arrest and conviction destroyed his life, and many of his family members died while he was in prison. But after two decades behind bars, he came to accept “the significance of faith and the value of God.” He has been teaching Bible class in prison, and said one day in class he realized, “If this is where God wants me to rest my head for the rest of my life, this is where I’m going to serve Jesus Christ for the rest of my life,” and he was resigned to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart had virtually no experience with the law on Nov. 18, 1983, and teachers who saw them in Harlem Park Junior High School that day described them “as silly and immature, not threatening,” said Lauren Lipscomb, the head of the Conviction Integrity Unit. The teens never denied being in the school and said they goofed around at their friends’ houses long into the afternoon after being kicked out of the school about 12:45 p.m.
Duckett was headed to lunch with two friends when someone came up and demanded his Georgetown Starter jacket at 1:15 p.m. His two friends ran. As Duckett was struggling to get the jacket off, he was shot. He ran to the cafeteria and collapsed, conscious but unable to speak, and died two hours later.
“Two individuals called in saying Michael Willis was the shooter,” Lipscomb said. One witness picked Willis out of a photo array as the shooter. Another student saw Willis run from the school and throw away a handgun. The reports on all of this were not given to the defense by the prosecutor Shoup. “You cannot make this up,” Lipscomb said. “It is just outrageous.”
Detective Kincaid showed photos of Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart to three witnesses. Twice, all three witnesses did not identify any of them, the newly released reports show. But the witnesses were repeatedly pulled from school over subsequent months and coached to identify the three teens, Lipscomb said. Kincaid flatly denied this. At trial, with the defense unaware they had not identified the teens initially, their testimony was devastating. All three have now recanted their testimony, Lipscomb said.
“The detective didn’t care,” Watkins said. “When we told the truth, he didn’t care.” When police arrived at each of the teen’s houses at 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day 1983, they had a search warrant for Chestnut and found a Georgetown Starter jacket in his closet. His mother had the receipt for the jacket and showed it to police, Chestnut said. No blood or physical evidence tied the coat to Duckett or the shooting. But Shoup told the jury the victim’s jacket was in the defendant’s closet, another powerful piece of evidence that prosecutors now say was false.
At sentencing, Stewart told the court: “You still didn’t get the person who did it. I’m saying we know we didn’t do it, and a lot of other people know we didn’t do it.”
The men became eligible for parole in recent years, but all three declined to accept responsibility for the slaying, and so even when parole commissioners recommended them for release, the Maryland governor refused.
“I broke down crying,” Stewart said. “I cried like a baby.” “I feel like all these years I’ve been saying the same thing,” Chestnut said. “Finally, somebody heard my cry. I give thanks to God and Marilyn Mosby. She’s been doing a lot of work for guys in my situation.”
On Monday, their final court appearance was over in less than half an hour. Lipscomb and the defense attorneys asked the judge to grant a writ of actual innocence, which he did, ordering a new trial. Lipscomb then listed all the evidence that was withheld from the men’s lawyers in 1984, to the judge’s apparent disbelief.
Lipscomb proceeded to dismiss all charges against all three men. “Happy Thanksgiving,” she added, and the audience cheered.
For 5 wrongly convicted men, years of effort yield millions in compensation
Here’s how wrongfully convicted Maryland prisoners were compensated in the past
I have written about this guy before, acknowledging his road to redemption. But would you accept an offer of $7 million to spend decades in prison? Of course not! We MUST end prosecutor misconduct and we must end wrongful convictions. See many articles on this website on how that can be accomplished, not the least of which is ending the war on drugs!
READ How The War on Drugs Destroyed Justice:
Excerpts from the Article:
Twenty years ago, Derrick Hamilton was at his lowest point: locked in solitary confinement for a murder he insisted he did not commit. Over the next two decades, he slowly crawled his way out of the belly of the beast.
He became a jailhouse lawyer, helping his fellow inmates appeal their convictions. Twenty-three years later, he finally persuaded prosecutors to throw out his own conviction, after an eyewitness recanted her testimony. Once free, he became an activist, toiling to get others he believed were wrongfully convicted out of jail.
Late last week, Mr. Hamilton, 54, took on a new role in the long drama of his fight against injustice: a successful plaintiff. City officials in New York and New Haven, Conn., agreed on Friday to pay him a total of $7 million to settle a lawsuit he had filed against three police officers, accusing them of fabricating evidence against him.
One of those officers, Louis Scarcella, a retired New York detective, has emerged in recent years as symbol of wrongful convictions, as numerous cases he handled have fallen apart. Under the terms of the agreement, reached on the eve of what would have been a trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Mr. Scarcella admitted no wrongdoing. He had been scheduled, like Mr. Hamilton himself, to testify at the trial.
For Mr. Hamilton, the payout, while substantial, was not the point. “It’ll help my family out financially,” he said. “It doesn’t settle what I went through.” Mr. Hamilton added: “Everyone’s life went on for 20 years. Mine stopped.”
In 1991, when he was 28 and living in New Haven, Mr. Hamilton was arrested by Mr. Scarcella and the local police, accused of having murdered a Brooklyn man, Nathaniel Cash, whom he had known when he lived in the borough. You have 4 free articles remaining. The only eyewitness against him at his trial in State Supreme Court was Mr. Cash’s girlfriend, Jewel Smith, who had given conflicting accounts to the police about Mr. Hamilton’s role in the killing.
Still, the jury convicted him, and Mr. Hamilton was sent away in 1992 to what soon became a series of upstate prisons.
He spent much of the next 23 years performing jailhouse legal work. He pored over trial transcripts, filing motions on behalf of other inmates and occasionally winning their appeals. At one point — in Attica Correctional Facility — he filed papers challenging his long stint in solitary confinement, claiming it was “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In 2007, Ms. Smith went to the authorities and asserted that Mr. Hamilton was innocent. Mr. Scarcella, she said, had coerced her into testifying against him. Eight years later, the Conviction Review Unit of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office asked a judge to toss out Mr. Hamilton’s guilty verdict. Prosecutors noted that Ms. Smith had been “unreliable, untruthful and incredible in her testimony.”
By that point, the district attorney’s office was two years into an expansive investigation of dozens of Mr. Scarcella’s former murder cases, looking into allegations that he had coerced other witnesses and had threatened people to get them to confess. That investigation, which is ongoing, has led to the release of 14 inmates and has resulted in the city and state paying tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against Mr. Scarcella.
The district attorney’s office has, however, maintained that Mr. Scarcella has not committed any punishable conduct or broken the law. Since becoming a free man, Mr. Hamilton has labored to overturn many convictions linked to Mr. Scarcella. Mr. Hamilton has worked with lawyers as a paralegal to investigate facts and has helped draft lawsuits and motions in support of new trials.
A few years ago, he founded a support group called Friends and Family of the Wrongfully Convicted with another former inmate, Sundhe Moses, who was also arrested by Mr. Scarcella and was ultimately freed. The group met for a while at the Brownstone Bar & Restaurant on Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which Mr. Hamilton operated with Shabaka Shakur, a third man arrested by Mr. Scarcella and later exonerated.
The three former prisoners would sometimes appear at hearings where Mr. Scarcella was on the stand defending his work. They wore hats that said “Wrongfully Convicted.”
More recently, Mr. Hamilton has partnered with the Innocence Project in an effort to persuade the New York Police Department to change the way in which its officers conduct interrogations. He has also undertaken a project to organize former prison inmates to work together as a voting bloc for criminal justice reform.
On Tuesday, he was in court when a Brooklyn judge threw out the conviction of Eliseo Deleon in what was the 15th exoneration linked to Mr. Scarcella’s detective work. Mr. Deleon spent 25 years in prison for a 1996 murder committed during a botched robbery in Clinton Hill. He has long maintained that Mr. Scarcella fabricated his confession.
“I know what it’s like to come home and have nothing — that’s why I’m going,” Mr. Hamilton said before the hearing. “The guy who’s coming home, he needs to know he’s got a friend.”
The Whole Story:
This is clearly racism and over criminalization! The officer ignored several other white people eating and drinking on the platform! Mr. Foster is likely to sue, and rightly so! See numerous articles on my website about racism, and READ this too:
Excerpts from the Article:
A police officer detained and cited a man eating a sandwich on a San Francisco train platform, a confrontation captured on a viral video.
In the video posted on social media, the Bay Area Rapid Transit policeman told the man, later identified as Steve Foster, that eating on the platform is against state law. The officer keeps his hand on Foster’s backpack while Foster angrily addresses the camera and the officer.
Foster insisted he was doing nothing wrong and refused to give his name. The November 4 incident escalated and Foster was handcuffed when a second officer arrived at the train platform. “I’m definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, angry about it,” Foster told CNN affiliate KGO.
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said Monday that an officer issued a citation to Foster but did not arrest him. “The court will determine level of fine he should pay,” she said.
“Eating in the paid area is banned and there are multiple signs inside every station saying as much,” the statement said. “As a transportation system our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system. This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday. ”
“The officer asked the rider not to eat while passing by on another call,” the statement continued. “It should have ended there, but it didn’t. When the officer walked by again and still saw him eating, he moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation. The individual refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement.
Several BART riders upset with the incident held an “eat-in” on the platform in protest. “I hope they start focusing on stuff that actually matters like people shooting up dope, hopping the BART, people getting stabbed,” Foster told KGO.
Just read so many of the articles on my website, field just a few of the calls I get every week, to realize the sad truth of My Little Statue, below!
Raise some hell about it. Here is How: READ Practical Tip – Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System
These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them. Alcohol breath tests, a linchpin of the criminal justice system, are often unreliable, a Times investigation found.
This excellent article was sent to me by my good friend and great lawyer, Stephen Hampton, Esq*. It really is pretty scary! As if we don’t have enough innocent people in prison already – somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 (nobody knows the actual number) – here is cause for more! 🙁
This article is as exhaustive (Because these articles go to my newsletter, and this is so long,I have had to omit much of it) as it is illuminating. IF YOU ARE A PROSECUTOR OR A DEFENSE LAWYER, YOU SHOULD – MUST – READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE! It discusses various types of machines/devices and their problems. IT’S A SHOCKER!
I handled at least 1,000 DUI cases, tried over 100, and never had this problem, because I made sure the machines had been properly calibrated, and the exact ones described here did not yet exist.
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 North Bradford Street
Dover, DE 19904
For DUI cases in Delaware, contact my friend and excellent Defense Attorney,
John Garey, Esq.:
48 The Green, Dover, DE 19901
You can’t do better than John!
Excerpts from the Article:
A million Americans a year are arrested for drunken driving, and most stops begin the same way: flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror, then a battery of tests that might include standing on one foot or reciting the alphabet.
What matters most, though, happens next. By the side of the road or at the police station, the drivers blow into a miniature science lab that estimates the concentration of alcohol in their blood. If the level is 0.08 or higher, they are all but certain to be convicted of a crime.
But those tests — a bedrock of the criminal justice system — are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place.
Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years.
The machines are sensitive scientific instruments, and in many cases they haven’t been properly calibrated, yielding results that were at times 40 percent too high. Maintaining machines is up to police departments that sometimes have shoddy standards and lack expertise. In some cities, lab officials have used stale or home-brewed chemical solutions that warped results. In Massachusetts, officers used a machine with rats nesting inside.
There are more than a million drunken driving arrests in America each year, but the devices the police use to test drivers’ breath may not even work.
Technical experts have found serious programming mistakes in the machines’ software. States have picked devices that their own experts didn’t trust and have disabled safeguards meant to ensure the tests’ accuracy.
The Times interviewed more than 100 lawyers, scientists, executives and police officers and reviewed tens of thousands of pages of court records, corporate filings, confidential emails and contracts. Together, they reveal the depth of a nationwide problem that has attracted only sporadic attention.
A county judge in Pennsylvania called it “extremely questionable” whether any of his state’s breath tests could withstand serious scrutiny. In response, local prosecutors stopped using them. In Florida, a panel of judges described their state’s instrument as a “magic black box” with “significant and continued anomalies.”
Even some industry veterans say the machines should not be de facto arbiters of guilt. “The tests were never meant to be used that way,” said John Fusco, who ran National Patent Analytical Systems, a maker of breath-testing devices. Yet the tests have become all but unavoidable. Every state punishes drivers who refuse to take one when ordered by a police officer.
The consequences of the legal system’s reliance on these tests are far-reaching. People are wrongfully convicted based on dubious evidence. Hundreds were never notified that their cases were built on faulty tests. And when flaws are discovered, the solution has been to discard the results — letting potentially dangerous drivers off the hook.
… Massachusetts was forced to throw out their breath tests — along with more than 36,000 others — in one of the largest exclusions of forensic evidence in American history.
In most of the country, the threshold for illegal drunkenness is 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The only way to measure that directly is to draw blood, which requires a warrant. Breath tests are simpler.
Testing machines can go for $10,000 or more, and some two dozen companies sell them in the United States. The biggest contracts, with state police crime labs, are worth millions.
The report said the Alcotest 9510 was “not a sophisticated scientific measurement instrument” and “does not adhere to even basic standards of measurement.” It described a calculation error that Mr. Walker and Mr. Momot believed could round up some results. And it found that certain safeguards had been disabled.
The decision caused paralysis. Prosecutors froze thousands of cases until the review was finished.
The software experts and scientists who inspected the Alcotest 9510 machines found troubling mistakes, according to their reports to the court. In some circumstances — when the devices’ two testing methods produced substantially different results, for example — the machines were supposed to generate error messages and terminate the test. Instead, the devices printed a result. (Dräger blamed an error by its computer programmers, which it said has now been fixed.)
But the machines weren’t the only problem. The Massachusetts forensic lab, which for years had been plagued by scandals over faked drug test results and tampered evidence, lacked a written procedure to set up and test machines, the lab’s technical director testified. The justice hearing the case, Robert A. Brennan, said the lab could not prove that it had followed a “scientifically sound methodology,” and in 2017 he threw out all of its breath test results from 2012 through 2014. That was only the beginning. Lawyers soon discovered that the lab had hidden records of hundreds of failed calibrations. The discovery provoked a state investigation that blasted the lab’s leadership for “serious errors of judgment.” Justice Brennan later expanded his previous order: No tests from the lab were admissible until it was accredited by a national board that oversees forensic labs. Eight years of tests — more than 36,000, according to defense lawyers — were suddenly off-limits.
Nearly 29,000 of the invalidated tests in Massachusetts were already used to convict drivers, state records show. This month, the state will begin informing those defendants that they can seek a new trial, and lawyers are bracing for a flood of requests. So are lawyers in New Jersey, where more than 13,000 people were found guilty based on breath tests from machines that hadn’t been properly set up. Between those two states, at least 42,000 convictions are at risk. Thousands of other defendants have already been acquitted in cases that prosecutors believe they would have won if they had been able to use their most powerful piece of evidence.
And recognition of the tests’ problems is spreading. In Minnesota, a judge ruled last year that the state’s machines appeared to be rounding up results, falsely nudging some defendants over the legal limit. (A spokeswoman for the state’s testing program said the judge misunderstood the technology.)
And in courts around the country — including one last year in Queens County, N.Y. — judges continue to toss out individual cases when questions arise about the tests’ accuracy.
“If we are going to put people in jail and punish people, take their liberties away, take their licenses away, we have an obligation to be accurate,” said Joseph Bernard, the defense lawyer who helped Mr. Mottor get a new trial and is representing dozens of others in Massachusetts.
But there is a cost. Throwing out tens of thousands of faulty breath tests will inevitably let some dangerous drivers back on the road.
“Let’s not fool each other,” Mr. Bernard said. “I am not going to sit here and tell you that situation and that dynamic isn’t going to happen. Of course it’s going to happen. The question is, whose fault is it?”
The Whole Story:
DEFENDING THE CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT IN ST. LOUIS – Of last year’s exonerations, 107 involved official misconduct, 111 included perjury or false accusations, and 31 were based at least in part on mistaken eyewitness identifications. – kra
Yes, the system is so fucked up that more than 40 prosecutors offices now have conviction integrity units! Many more, at the city, county and state levels, SHOULD have them.
Excerpts from the Article:
In the past 30 years, exonerations have freed people who have collectively spent over 20,000 years in prison due to wrongful convictions. Since 1989, more than 2,400 people have been exonerated. This year alone, there have been 80 exonerations so far.
Wrongful convictions are only one of many problems in our criminal legal system, and a single-minded focus on innocence can obscure that. But wrongful convictions are the most vivid examples of a comfort with injustice and error on the part of too many prosecutors and police officers. In its report on exonerations in 2018, the National Registry for Exonerations found that 68 of 151 exonerees had been wrongfully convicted in homicides. On average, exonerees had spent over 10 years in prison. One man, Richard Philips, had spent over 45 years in prison in Michigan before he was exonerated last year. Of last year’s exonerations, 107 involved official misconduct, 111 included perjury or false accusations, and 31 were based at least in part on mistaken eyewitness identifications.
The 2018 report highlights the work of “professional exonerators”—innocence organizations and conviction integrity units (CIUs)—in identifying these injustices. Innocence organizations took part in a record 86 exonerations last year; CIUs helped secure 58 exonerations; and the two types of organizations collaborated on a record 45 exonerations in 2018.
More than 40 prosecutors offices now have conviction integrity units. The mere establishment of the units, however, means very little. As Josie Duffy Rice pointed out in The Appeal last year, some CIUs, officially open for years, have been given next to no resources and have little to show for their work. But the guiding principles for effective units are now well-established and some offices have produced important results. In Detroit, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office opened a Conviction Integrity Unit in 2018 and as of April had produced six exonerations, including that of Richard Philips. In Chicago, the CIU at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office was responsible for 31 exonerations, most of them linked to a single scandal.
Cook County and Wayne County made a disproportionate contribution to the number of exonerations last year and their effect is far from representative. But the problem of wrongful convictions is pervasive, and prosecutors have a responsibility to reverse them.
That is why, in an amicus brief filed last week in the case of Lamar Johnson, 43 elected prosecutors from around the country supported the work of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and her office’s conviction integrity unit. Johnson was sentenced to life without parole in a 1984 killing. He has maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. In 2008, the Midwest Innocence Project began working on his case. Last year, the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office received a federal grant to open a conviction integrity unit that would work with the project. Last month, the unit issued a report on Johnson’s case, and prosecutors filed a motion asking that Johnson’s conviction for first-degree murder be vacated and that he be granted a new trial.
In the Washington Post last month, Meaghan Flynn wrote of the state’s theory against Johnson that it “stretched the physical limits of the human body,” requiring that Johnson make it to and from the scene of the murder, three miles from where the state conceded he was before and after, in the space of five minutes. The reality, according to the conviction integrity unit, is that the conviction was obtained because of what Flynn describes as “a staggering amount of misconduct on the part of homicide detectives and prosecutors.”
“The conviction against Lamar Johnson was obtained through perjured testimony, suppression of exculpatory and material impeachment evidence of secret payments to the sole eyewitness, and undisclosed Brady material related to a jailhouse informant with a history of incentivized cooperation with the State. The violation of Johnson’s constitutional rights enabled the State of Missouri to obtain a conviction and sentence of life without the possibility of parole against Johnson despite overwhelming evidence of innocence. The undisclosed secret payments to the sole eyewitness in a case that was undeniably thin fatally undermines the reliability of the verdict. Based on the record now known and the professional, ethical, and constitutional duties of a prosecutor to seek justice, the Circuit Attorney moves this Court to grant her motion for a new trial.”
But the prosecutor’s motion met with immediate pushback. The judge in the case appears to have decided to appoint the state attorney general’s office as co-counsel in the case, citing a conflict of interest for Gardner’s office. In their brief, Gardner’s fellow elected prosecutors dismantle this argument and defend the work of CIUs: “A CIU provides prosecutors with an organized framework not only to remedy injustices, but also to investigate and address misconduct uncovered in regard to prior prosecutors. … Presuming that a conflict arises whenever the Circuit Attorney seeks to remedy past prosecutorial misconduct—as the Court appears to have concluded here—would erode the essence and functioning of CIUs.”
Gardner, St. Louis’s first Black chief prosecutor, has been operating in an intensely hostile political climate, including opposition from the police union that has only intensified over her decision to place officers with credibility problems on a no-call list.
In their amicus brief, the elected prosecutors point out that Gardner’s election was a vote for criminal justice reform. Her discretion in handling criminal cases “carries with it the mandate of the citizens of the City of St. Louis. Indeed, in seeking office, the current Circuit Attorney ran on a platform of criminal justice reform.”
This article was sent to me by my good friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton*. He is one of too few with the skills and the will needed to sue prison officials and other prison workers, like the so-called “health care” workers!
This case is yet another example of injustice. Cops destroyed a house to catch a fleeing criminal. The case hinged on the interpretation of the word “taking” in the statutes. I think the court erred here. It even could have gone so far as to say that the demolition of the homeowner’s property was a de facto eminent domain case, because it was the taking of private property for a public purpose – public safety!
Hell, they have made a far worse and more ridiculous decision regarding eminent domain! READ the case of Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), which was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London
*Steve can be reached at: Stephen Hampton
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 North Bradford Street
Dover, DE 19904
Excerpts from the Article:
The owners of a home that was destroyed by police pursuing a fleeing suspect are not entitled to compensation under the takings clause, a federal appeals court has ruled. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in an opinion that does not constitute binding precedent in other cases.
The court held that the officers acted under the state’s police power rather than the power of eminent domain, so any damage to the home fell outside the scope of the takings clause.
The incident occurred in June 2015 in Greenwood Village, Colorado. An armed shoplifting suspect fleeing police holed up inside a home where John Lech was living with his girlfriend and her 9-year-old son. The boy was home at the time, but he escaped after the suspect entered.
Police negotiated with the suspect for about five hours after he fired a shot that struck a police car. When the negotiations failed, police fired several rounds of gas into the home, breached the front doors with an armored vehicle, sent in a robot and used explosives to create points of entry to the home.
A tactical team tried to enter the home but the suspect, Robert Seacat, fired at the officers. Police once again employed the armored vehicle to open multiple holes in the home. This time, the tactical team was able to arrest Seacat.
The home had to be demolished. The city of Greenwood Village offered to help with temporary living expenses while the home was rebuilt but refused to provide any other compensation.
Lech and his parents, the homeowners, were the lawsuit plaintiffs in the suit against Greenwood Village and several of its officers. They alleged violation of their constitutional rights stemming from destruction of the home and refusal to compensate them.
The Lechs argued that the takings clause should apply because it was designed to bar government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens that in fairness should be borne by government.
They also argued that precedent distinguishing the power of eminent domain and police power should not apply to cases of innocent owners whose property is destroyed. The appeals court rejected the arguments.
The court said the innocent owner argument “is not without support,” but it was joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in holding that there was no taking.
Lech’s father, Leo Lech, told the Washington Post he may ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“It just goes to show that they can blow up your house, throw you out on the streets and say, ‘See you later. Deal with it,’ ” he told the Post. “What happened to us should never happen in this country, ever.”
Lech said it cost nearly $400,000 to rebuild the home and, “This has ruined our lives.”
Ken Paxton – MAJOR TEXAS ASSHOLE – Blocks Payment to Formerly Incarcerated Man Declared Innocent Declared innocent, Alfred Dewayne Brown has appealed for compensation due to unjust imprisonment
“MAJOR TEXAS ASSHOLE”?! How dare I say that?! Seriously, that is exactly what this guy is! How could anyone with a conscience not make suck a statement?!
Texas Attorney General Ken “Still Under Indictment” Paxton doesn’t only spend his energy trying to overturn “Obamacare,” obstruct reproductive rights, restrict voting access, or delay his own trial on charges of securities fraud. He also has time to block an exonerated man from receiving compensation for years of unjust imprisonment.
That’s the latest wrinkle in the case of Houstonian Alfred Dewayne Brown, who spent more than 12 years in prison for a murder that prosecutors and courts have since agreed he did not commit. When Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar prepared to release a compensatory payment to Brown – as he is required to do under the 2009 Tim Cole Act – Paxton intervened to block the payment, although the A.G. has no authority in the matter. Nevertheless, an official in the comptroller’s office responded to Paxton’s intervention and withheld the payment.
Alfred Dewayne Brown
In 2005, Brown was convicted of the 2003 murder of Houston police officer Charles Clark in a botched robbery. Brown maintained his innocence, and the conviction was overturned in 2015 (after 12 years in prison, nine on death row) when evidence was discovered confirming his alibi – evidence that had apparently been concealed by the prosecutor. Subsequently, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg assigned a special prosecutor, John Raley, to review the case. Raley confirmed the exoneration, and earlier this year, a state district judge declared Brown “actually innocent” – the legal standard to allow Brown to receive compensation for his unjust imprisonment.
As in most instances, the case of a murdered police officer remains controversial, and the Houston police union and even Chief Art Acevedo (formerly of Austin) have loudly objected to the exoneration and compensation. But Brown has met the legal standard for innocence, and under state law is required to receive $2 million in compensation for his lost years – and the attorney general has no role in the matter.
Nevertheless, Paxton wrote privately to Hegar to object, questioning the court’s innocence ruling while also suggesting that since the case had been closed earlier, the court no longer has jurisdiction – absurdly circular logic, but sufficient for a comptroller staffer to use as a reason to refuse to authorize the payment. In a letter to Brown’s attorney, Neal Manne, administrator Leonard Higgins (apparently not himself a lawyer) wrote that “it is not clear that the district court had jurisdiction” to dismiss the charges against Brown, refused to authorize payment, and, after a re-application, affirmed that refusal.
Manne has since been joined in Brown’s appeal of the comptroller’s rejection by former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson (a Republican, now in private practice in Austin). In a Sept. 30 writ of mandamus submitted to the Supreme Court, Brown’s attorneys point out that under state law, the comptroller’s role in a compensation case is “purely ministerial” – without discretion – and confined to confirming that all the relevant documents have been submitted by a claimant. They also point out that in at least two similar cases (following dismissals by a district court), compensation was duly awarded.
Due to a prosecutorial “failing,” the attorneys write, “An innocent man lost more than a decade of freedom. Now, despite a statutory promise of recompense, Brown has been deprived of a remedy others in his same circumstance have received.” The writ notes that the comptroller’s refusal was “impenetrable” – until it was revealed that Paxton, without authority, “had intervened and urged [the comptroller] to deny the application based largely on his belief, contrary to that of the prosecutor and the criminal district court, that Brown was guilty. But guilt or innocence is decided by the criminal justice system … [and] that system has declared him actually innocent. Respondent [the comptroller] … does not have the power to supersede that judicial conclusion.”
The defense attorneys had not been informed of Paxton’s private letter to Hegar – Houston Chronicle reporter Keri Blakinger acquired a copy and reported on its contents on Sept. 9 (“Texas AG Paxton intervened in Alfred Brown case to oppose compensation for wrongfully convicted former death-row prisoner”). In an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court, Baylor Law professor Ron Beal called Paxton’s letter unauthorized under the law, and the comptroller’s failure to provide the letter to the defense “a gross act of arbitrary and capricious action.”
Raley’s report to D.A. Ogg, confirming Brown’s innocence, includes ample evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, notably transcripts of the grand jury proceedings during which prosecutor Dan Rizzo and the jury foreman – a Houston police officer – repeatedly threatened Brown’s girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, with jail and the loss of her children if she refused to retract her testimony confirming Brown’s alibi. She did so only after Rizzo jailed her for seven weeks, accusing her of perjury. In his report, Raley wrote, “It is impossible to examine the conviction of Alfred Dewayne Brown without confronting prosecutorial misconduct.”
Despite Paxton’s extrajudicial meddling, even former Gov. Rick Perry has called attention to prosecutorial abuse in the Brown case (“Black Lives Matter – And So Does Black Liberty,” Forbes, July 27, 2016). In a 2016 speech, he recounted how prosecutors had both hidden exculpatory evidence and extorted false testimony from Dockery. “[Brown’s] life was almost ruined,” said Perry, “because of an overzealous prosecutor who concealed exonerating evidence.” In June, special prosecutor Raley filed a grievance (still pending) with the Texas State Bar against prosecutor Rizzo (since retired). Citing Rizzo’s concealment of exculpatory evidence and his abuse of witnesses, Raley wrote, “Rizzo’s unethical and illegal actions resulted in an innocent man being sent to death row.”
The harm done by this wrongdoing is broad. Guilty criminals may go unpunished, as well as innocent ones punished. I can only wonder how many more terrible, awful cops there are nationwide. I remind you again of the subtle but serious harm: the people distrust the police, and therefore do not cooperate to try to solve/reduce crimes!
The good news is that some officers have been convicted, and the Federal investigations continue. Thank God Ms. Mosby is doing the right thing.
City Solicitor Andre Davis has said he’s concerned that many defendants could file lawsuits against the city. Ya think?! They should!
Excerpts from the Article:
Baltimore’s top prosecutor has begun asking judges to throw out nearly 800 convictions that she said were tainted by officers linked to a corruption scandal.
The Baltimore Sun reported Friday that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s review found 790 criminal cases handled by 25 city officers whom she says she has reason to distrust. Mosby updated the number of officers being scrutinized on Friday, saying it could fluctuate as her office investigates.
Eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force were convicted of racketeering crimes and sentenced to prison. Many of the other 17 officers cited by Mosby’s office were named in testimony during the federal trial, though not necessarily charged with crimes. Mosby’s office hasn’t disclosed all of their names because of ongoing federal investigations.
The newspaper said three of the additional officers remain on the force, including a detective and two sergeants, citing confirmation from a department spokesman. One of the three has been suspended.
Mosby said in an email to the newspaper that “our legal and ethical obligation in the pursuit of justice leaves us no other recourse but to ‘right the wrongs’ of unjust convictions associated with corrupt police officers.”
Of the eight Baltimore officers sentenced to prison for racketeering charges, six accepted plea deals and two were convicted. Officers admitted to stealing money from people, lying in police paperwork and claiming unearned overtime pay. Officers found guilty also testified about potential wrongdoing by additional police officers who haven’t been charged.
Prosecutors spent more than a year reviewing thousands of arrests by the task force and identified the 790, most of which are older cases in which the defendants have already been released.
With expanded authorities under a new state law, Mosby’s staff will file 200 cases a week, with judges holding daily hearings to consider erasing bad convictions. “It is still very early in the process, and we are hopeful for the swift vacatur of all of the many tainted convictions,” said Melissa Rothstein, spokeswoman for the Baltimore public defender’s office.
City Solicitor Andre Davis has said he’s concerned that many defendants could file lawsuits against the city.