Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trashing the Truth

In July of this year, the Denver Post ran a series of articles on how the evidence that can convict the guilty and free the innocent is routinely destroyed by police departments. It is well worth the time to read.

State Appeals Court Grants Archie Williams DNA Testing To Prove His Innocence – 11 Years after He First Asked a Court for Testing

Excerpts from The Innocence Project

(BATON ROUGE, LA; August 22, 2007) – A state appeals court in Baton Rouge ruled this week that Archie Williams has a legal right to DNA testing that could prove his innocence in a rape and attempted murder for which he was convicted in 1983. The ruling comes nearly a quarter-century after Williams was convicted – and 11 years after attorneys for Williams filed the first legal motion seeking DNA testing in the case.

"In many of the 206 cases nationwide where DNA has exonerated wrongfully convicted people, it took years to secure DNA testing, but we have never seen a case as egregious as this one. This is precisely the kind of case where DNA can prove guilt or innocence irrefutably and quickly, but it has taken well over a decade just to secure a court order to have DNA testing conducted,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo Law School. “It is truly incomprehensible and simply unconscionable that it has taken so long to secure testing in this case."

"Again and again in Louisiana and around the country, we have shown that DNA can exonerate the innocent while also helping identify and apprehend the guilty. In the interests of justice, public safety and confidence in the criminal justice system, the Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office should let this court ruling stand and start working to get the DNA testing done,” Scheck said. “Nobody – not Archie Williams and his family, nor the victim and her family and not the community at large – is served by continuing the unprecedented obstacles to DNA testing in this case."

A Snapshot of exonerations

We have a new link on the "Links to Other Sites." At this site, provided by The Innocence Project, you can view Exonerations by State, Causes of Wrongful Convictions by State, or Reform.

When you click on any of the 3 categories, you will first see a map of all states, and then can select a State for specific information.

The Innocence Project has much valuable information on its site, but this snapshot is a very good way to become knowledgeable about wrongful convictions.

Retarded man held 14 years in killing

Excerpts from the News & Observer

Attorneys for a retarded Anson County man held without trial for 14 years on murder charges have filed documents calling his detention illegal and asking that the state free him from Dorothea Dix hospital immediately.

The writ of habeas corpus filed for Floyd Brown this week in Durham County Superior Court includes details that challenge a case already marred by bribe-taking investigators, lost evidence and a confession that psychiatrists say Brown never could have given. The 43-year-old has an IQ of 50.

It's the first time the case will be scrutinized by a judge outside Anson, which is about 120 miles southwest of the Triangle.

The document filed Tuesday contains new allegations. It includes evidence that the description of the suspect in Katherine Lynch's 1993 murder didn't match Brown. A document also shows Lynch's actual time of death was several hours before police claim Brown killed her.

[Brown] has been unable to stand trial because of his retardation, which has been documented since kindergarten. It prevents him from being able to direct his attorney as required by law. Brown, who has been kept in a state mental hospital, is "caught in a cruel legal limbo," his attorneys say.

Read more . . .

Nifong relinquishes his law license

From the News & Observer, August 15, 2007:

On August 7, Nifong mailed his law license to the N.C. State Bar, ending his legal career.

At the conclusion of his hearing, Nifong spoke through his attorney to tell the disciplinary panel that "he believes this has been a fair and full hearing of the facts, that he believes disbarment is the appropriate punishment in this case."

In his August 7 letter, however, he sang a different tune, "decrying the fundamental unfairness of how the bar treated him."

Nifong was upset about a change in the official written order of the Panel's decision. In it's oral ruling, the Panel found him guilty of 11 counts, but the first written order included only 10 counts. Duke law professor Robert Mosteller, who is writing two law review articles on the case, called the discrepancy to the Panel's attention, and it amended the written order.

Of this change, Nifong wrote:

"Mr. Williamson's e-mail assertion that the addition of a new conclusion of law based on the request of a Duke University law professor is merely a 'clerical correction' is preposterous beyond belief, and is further evidence of the fundamental unfairness with which this entire procedure has been conducted."