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Inside Criminal Justice

Wrongful Convictions Worry Cops

August 22, 2012 06:40:00 am
Comments (4)

As the problem of wrongful convictions has been dissected over many years, defense lawyers, law professors and a few prosecutors have taken the lead in proposing reforms.

Now police chiefs are jumping in, focusing on their specialty: the front end of the justice system.

Today, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is gathering about 70 experts from various disciplines involved in the legal system at a "summit" in Alexandria, Va., a Washington, D.C. suburb, to seek new solutions.

The session was set up at the urging of current IACP President Walter McNeil, police chief of Quincy, FL. Writing in the organization's magazine, McNeil said that, "While a very small percentage of all convictions are in fact wrongful, the damage to those wrongly accused, convicted, and incarcerated is irreversible."

He added: "The damage goes beyond the wrongfully convicted citizen; it hurts all those involved in the case, including law enforcement and prosecutorial staff, families of the wrongfully accused, the victim of the original crime in question, and the public at large when justice is not carried out and the true guilty individual is not arrested and punished."

The event, which is not open to the public, includes four working groups, titled "Making Rightful Arrests," "Correcting a Wrongful Arrest," "Technology and Forensic Issues" and "Reexamination of Closed Cases."

The one-day session, which is supported by three federal agencies--the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Office for Victims of Crime, will publish a set of recommendations later.

In remarks prepared for delivery, Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mary Lou Leary said, "A disproportionate share of the blame for wrongful convictions is laid at the feet of law enforcement.  That’s unfortunate, and it’s unfair." Leary said the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Wrongful Convictions Review Grant Program has awarded more than $9.4 million to 34 organizations to support representation of defendants with credible post-conviction claims of innocence.

Speakers scheduled to appear at an opening panel discussion, moderated by Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise O'Donnell, are Ilse Knecht of the National Center for Victims of Crime; Police Chief Mike Corley of Brownwood, TX; Kristine Hamann, Executive Assistant District Attorney in the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor; Judge Russell Canan of the Washington, D.C., Superior Court's Criminal Division; and Barry Scheck, Co-Director of The Innocence Project.

The speaker at a lunch for the event is Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, who was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept.

She identified Ronald Cotton as the attacker. Although he denied the crime, her identification helped convict him.

Eleven years later, a DNA test proved Cotton's innocence.

He later co-authored a book with Thompson-Cannino about the case, "Picking Cotton."

EDITOR'S NOTE: For another take on the issue of wrongful convictions, see TCR's July 6,2012 story "270 Years In Prison" by Texas Tribune reporter (and 2012 HF Guggenheim Fellow)  Brandi Grissom HERE.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists. He welcomes comments from readers.

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Posted by David Remmy
Monday, September 24, 2012 06:21

In spite all publicity about false convictions, the witch hunt goes on and continues to violate constitution parameters. One can be accused by 3 10 year old girls in an obvious conspiracy. The conspiracy grows with a woman sex abuse investigator, who is identified by police officers from her own police department as a WICAN (belief one is a witch) and doubts her professionalize. But we have a save the child hysterical society, even child custody organization in our community called Amberly’s place. My lawyer, waiting 3 months before getting arrest report, was adamant about that I should not be arrested and should sue. However, here is where the conspiracy grows even more. The female prosecutor, by even inside court sources state, will never close the case. My lawyer feels too limited to carry forward, citing this prosecutor is engaging in prosecutor misconduct. If I were to push the case, she would call the kids in, implication, the kids would be coached just as in McMartin peschool and other infamous cases. Appears overriding concern his law firms reputation of being slandered by the prosecutor .Attorney of Yuma county. This goes own in practicality broad daylight, as other contacts from my prison ministry associations prosecutors actions. I’m a former Marine Officer,plus 17 years military policeman in reserves with combat action and disabled veteran. I’ve been a contributing community member, Sunday school teacher (adults) and managed to stay married 35 years. Illegals have more rights and representation than what I have, what did i do spending 29 years military service defending constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, to get this. No job past 2 years, can’t even volunteer, Department of Public Safety pulls clearance as long as case stays open. Oh, I’ve had secret top secret security clearance as Marine officer .military police, record cleans as a whistle.

Posted by Rwolf
Wednesday, September 05, 2012 03:51

Wrongful Convictions Won’t Worry Cops—under NDAA—the passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2013:

Under NDAA, the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Armed Forces may arrest not just terrorist suspects, but Americans the Government deems Belligerent. During the Obama Administration’s recent appeal to stop a judge’s injunction that blocked enforcement of some NDAA provisions, which the Obama Administration stated—they were justified and have the authorization to lock belligerents up indefinitely—because cases involving belligerents directly-aligned with militants against the good of America—warrants such punishment.

The Obama administration did not define what is a (belligerent); or militant, or what (belligerent activities directly align with a militant) to order an American’s arrest or indefinite detention; or what is against the good of America. The U.S. Government could charge as a militant e.g. any protestor, political organization or lawful unorganized militia. The Government could arbitrarily charge that any statement, writing or communication with any person or group government deems militant is (directly aligned) to arrest Americans. Writers and journalists that disagree with or question U.S. Government or its allies—could be subject to indefinite detention on the basis their statements or writings were “against the good of America.” The Nazi Government used similar laws to NDAA to arrest, disappear and execute without probable cause—political opposition and to confiscate property of those they arrested.

Under broad provisions of 2013 NDAA, U.S. Government or the President could order the round up any number of Americans alleged to be belligerents or threat to National Security. The Obama Administration wants the power to incarcerate in indefinite detention “American Belligerents” without probable cause, evidence, or charges, with no right to an attorney or habeas corpus. Increasingly some observers believe NDAA included the term “Belligerent” so U.S. Government would have authority granted by Congress to—Indefinitely Detain large numbers of Americans (without evidence of wrongdoing) for example arrest lawful Americans on the premise their—1st Amendment activities appeared intended or used to support or provoke—hostilities, combatants, terrorism or belligerents; posed a threat to National Security. Hitler included similar broad provisions in his Discriminatory Decrees signed February 28, 1933—that allowed German Police and Reich Authorities to arrest without evidence, any person authorities deemed inciting public unrest; that included German journalists, peaceful protestors, artists; Germans dancing the Jitterbug were arrested for inciting. Hitler’s 1933 fascist Decrees unlike the 2013 NDAA, never called for indefinite detention of belligerents or persons inciting public unrest. Specific Jail time and fines were ordered. 2013 NDAA and Hitler’s 1933 Decrees are similar, both the U.S. and Reich laws allow forced government censorship; warrant-less searches of private property and property forfeiture of arrested persons not charged with crime.

Under the Patriot Act, lending itself to corruption, the U.S. Government may use secret witnesses and informants to cause civil asset forfeiture of Americans’ property—the witness(s) and informants are paid up to 50% of assets forfeited. Federal Government is only required to use a preponderance of civil evidence, little more than hearsay to Civilly Forfeit Private Property. Under the Patriot Act Innocent property owners may be barred from knowing or challenging the evidence federal government uses to confiscate their property.

Provisions in 2013 NDAA keep the door open for corrupt U.S. police; government agents and provocateurs which there are many, to falsify reports and statements to target any American, group or organization for arrest or disappearance; forfeit the assets of any person or business.

Sections of 2013 are so broadly written, it appears U.S. Government or the President could (retroactively) deem any American’s 1st Amendment activities prior to passage of 2012 NDAA supported hostilities, terrorism or (Belligerents) to order the arrest and Indefinite Detention of any American, writer, group or organization.

It should be expected under NDAA that indefinitely detained U.S. Citizens not involved in terrorism or hostile activities, not given Miranda Warnings when interrogated, not allowed legal counsel or habeas corpus may be prosecuted for non-terrorist (ordinary crimes) because of their (alleged admissions) while held in Indefinite Detention.

Posted by Dean Tong
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 12:53

Arguably, the highest percentage of wrongful convictions lies in child sex cases.

Dean Tong, MSc.

Friday, August 24, 2012 10:05

Talk, talk, and more talk. Just ask WHY it takes so many years to have the truth be heard or should I say admitted? In many cases, the truth can be found in a simple $30.00 test that it takes copious amounts of money and years of legal maneuvers to get. Such a waste of lives and resources! And then IF there is success, we all act like our system is working! FREEPAULCORTEZ.ORG

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