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SCPR, Solitary Watch, LA Times and Slate have all published very recent articles regarding suicides in California state prisons after the federal monitor Dr. Raymond Patterson up and quit. Frustrated, claiming any future attempts at investigating is a waste of time and effort, he made it very clear that state prison officials just don’t care and are not interested in finding a solution. Dr. Patterson blasted the state for failing to follow many of the recommendations he made over the last 14 years. Nothing new there as far as CDCR goes…Does Little Hoover Commission ring a bell?
For well over 20 plus years, CDCR has failed to take any direction in correcting the abysmal prison system that is draining California. $10 Billion this year is budgeted for “corrections” -when no one is being corrected or rehabilitated. CDCR and Governor Brown feel the federal oversight needs to go away now, because they ‘have things under control’ and oversight is no longer needed. Really?
Realignment has been nothing more than smoke and mirrors, moving prisoners to overcrowded county jails and out of state private prisons. As I have said previously, a huge chess game played with human beings as pawns. When do the games end? When do we start addressing the problems that are glaringly obvious?
Here’s Southern California Public Radio’s report with the details:
[Dr. Raymond] Patterson has analyzed inmate suicides in state prisons for more than a decade and made recommendations every year on how prison officials could reduce the suicide rate. In his report on 2012 suicides, Patterson wrote that his recommendations go “unheeded, year after year,” while suicides “continue unabated.” Patterson concluded that state prison officials just don’t care about the issue, and that making any more recommendations would be “a further waste of time and effort.”
That report paints a rather depressing picture of the California prison system: The state has 24 suicides for every 100,000 inmates, a rate that is climbing and already 50 percent above the national average. Inmates in segregation units were 33 times more likely to commit suicide. Of the first 15 suicides of 2012, three were discovered after the onset of rigor mortis, and 13 had indicators of “inadequate assessment, treatment or intervention.”
An inmate at Chino State Prison, which houses 5,500 inmates, walks past the double and triple bunk beds in a gymnasium that was modified to house 213 prisoners in Chino, Calif. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
- CDCr caught lying….AGAIN! (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- California’s HUGE chess game (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- New Plan Would Return Calif. Inmates to State Prisons by June 2016 (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- Calif. ‘buried’ report on inmate suicides (upi.com)
- Sacramento hearing exposes CDCR’s hidden agenda (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- AP Exclusive: Inmate lawsuits cost Calif. $200M (sacbee.com)
The following article was posted on Facebook. I am beyond stunned and knew I had to share with you all. Annie Dookhan literally played with peoples lives-she became the judge, jury and executioner in all of the cases where she analyzed evidence. Dookhan now stands accused of falsifying test results in as many as 34,000 cases. Yes, 34,000!! Read on and share so that others become aware, please!
Crime Lab Scandal Leaves Mass. Legal System In Turmoil
by Tovia Smith
Annie Dhookan (right), a former Massachusetts crime lab chemist, is accused of falsifying evidence in more than 30,000 cases. The state’s criminal justice system is now reeling as former defendants are challenging their convictions and hundreds have already been released.
A scandal in a Massachusetts crime lab continues to reverberate throughout the state’s legal system. Several months ago, Annie Dookhan, a former chemist in a state crime lab, told police that she messed up big time. Dookhan now stands accused of falsifying test results in as many as 34,000 cases.
As a result, lawyers, prosecutors and judges used to operating in a world of “beyond a reasonable doubt” now have nothing but doubt.
Already, hundreds of convicts and defendants have been released because of the scandal. Now, the state’s highest court may weigh in on how these cases should be handled.
“I don’t think anyone ever perceived that one person was capable of causing this much chaos,” says Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrisey, one of many DAs now digging through old drug cases, trying to sort out how many should now be considered tainted.
“You can see the entire walls full of boxes,” Morrissey says, gesturing at dusty files piled six feet high in a conference room near his office. “In one of these cardboard boxes, there could be hundreds of cases … in each box.”
The cases represent nearly a decade’s worth of work that could take years and tens of millions of dollars to review.
For Prosecutors, ‘Unsettling And Maddening’
In Massachusetts, special courts have already heard hundreds of cases of convicts and defendants arguing they were denied due process. Their evidence, they argue, was handled — or mishandled — by Annie Dookhan.
In a recent hearing, public defender Julieann Hernon is arguing for release of a man charged with selling cocaine and heroin in a school-zone to an undercover officer. Hernon recites a list of alleged misconduct by Dookhan.
“It was, we now know, mistesting evidence, drylabbing evidence, saying she had conducted tests when she had not, deliberately tainting drugs,” she says.
Hernon’s client had pleaded guilty, but now, Hernon says, he should be allowed to take it back.
Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey is reviewing thousands of files to determine which cases must be thrown out or retried because of potentially tainted evidence.
“Certainly, I think, we have to presume a taint here when Annie Dookhan was the chemist in the case,” Hernon tells the judge.
The whole dynamic in court has now flipped in Massachusetts. Defendants tend to smile while prosecutors watch their cases crumble. Today, Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Tom Finigan tells the court that the Commonwealth will not oppose Hernon’s motion.
“It’s unsettling and maddening, because you’re now going to have a lot of people get released to the street prematurely,” says Middlesex County District attorney Gerry Leone, one of many hoping the state supreme court will curb the releases.
While some defendants could still be on the hook for gun or assault charges, for example, he says most drug cases where Dookhan was the primary chemist will be impossible to re-prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Leone says it’s unclear where to draw the line. Some offenders, he says, are just trying to jump on the bandwagon, arguing that every test from that lab should be considered tainted.
“If someone’s in jail, they’re doing downtime,” Leone says. “So there’s no reason to try to file something that gets you back before the court.”
In another recent case, defense attorney William Sullivan successfully argued to withdraw a client’s guilty plea in a case where Dookhan was a secondary chemist.
“This is a lab that was pretty much wholly and fully contaminated by Ms. Annie Dookhan,” Sullivan told the judge. “She had full access to everyone’s drugs.”
Continue Reading @ NPR
- Morrissey discusses ‘damage’ done by chemist accused in state drug lab scandal (patriotledger.com)
- Annie Dookhan to be arraigned today in Fall River Superior Court (tauntongazette.com)
- Single justice to hear challenge in drug lab cases (wcvb.com)
- Mass. judge sends 2 drug lab cases to high court (kansascity.com)
- Massachusetts chemist pleads not guilty in crime lab scandal (news.terra.com)
- Mass. Crime Lab Scandal Reverberates Across State (npr.org)
Advances in forensic science have made physical evidence increasingly crucial in criminal justice – but the practice of preserving and maintaining that evidence is often underfunded, poorly managed, or just plain sloppy
By Jordan Smith
For more than a decade, lawyers for death row inmate Hank Skinner fought prosecutors – in Gray County and the attorney general’s office – for the right to DNA-test certain items of evidence. Skinner was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1993 murder of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two grown sons in the home they shared in the Panhandle town of Pampa. The crime scene was bloody – Busby was bludgeoned, her sons repeatedly stabbed – and while some DNA tests have been performed, there was plenty of evidence that hadn’t been tested, including a sweat- and blood-stained windbreaker. The jacket is crucial, attorney Rob Owen has argued; found next to Busby’s body, the tan snap-front jacket resembled one regularly worn by Busby’s now-deceased uncle Robert Donnell, who the defense claims was obsessed with Busby and may have been her real killer. In short, testing the jacket might help prove Skinner’s innocence – or confirm his guilt.
On June 1, 2012, the state finally dropped its opposition to the testing. Just two weeks later, Owen was again frustrated when the AG’s Office informed him that the windbreaker was missing. “According to the state, every other piece of evidence in this case has been preserved,” he said at the time. “It is difficult to understand how the state has managed to maintain custody of items as small as fingernail clippings, while apparently losing something as large as a man’s windbreaker.”
No one seems to know when or how the jacket went missing. The Pampa Police Department, which investigated the murders, originally held all of the evidence related to the case. When the time came for Skinner to be tried, the evidence was handed over to Gray County. Some time after Skinner was tried, the jacket simply disappeared – and no one knows where it went, said Gary Noblett, a 41-year veteran of the Pampa PD and custodian of its evidence and property storage. Over the years, he said, a number of law enforcement types have called looking for it – including officials with the AG’s Office. “As far as I know of, no one’s ever been able to find that thing,” he said. Skinner remains on death row as DNA testing on other items of evidence continues.
Skinner’s case is not unusual. Unfortunately, missing evidence is “way more common than you’d think,” says evidence expert John Vasquez. Vasquez worked in property and evidence management for 25 years, first for the military and then for the Fort Worth and Wichita Falls PDs, before starting his own evidence-control consulting business. More often than not, the evidence hasn’t actually been removed from a law enforcement storage facility – though scandals involving stolen evidence are unnervingly common, as officials with the Houston PD can readily affirm. Instead, says Vasquez, missing evidence is generally misplaced evidence – logged into one area of a storage facility and then moved without anyone noting the new location, or overlooked when a department’s evidence-tracking system is upgraded.
That is, perhaps, the good news – though having something and not knowing where it is, or not being able to find it, is hardly less damaging than discovering that an item has been stolen or destroyed outright.
Indeed, an investigation by the Chronicle into the state of criminal evidence storage and retention in Texas reflects that while state laws firmly mandate the preservation and maintenance of evidence that may contain biological material, there is little consistency in how these laws are actually carried out, including wide disparities in how evidence is packaged and maintained. Legislation enacted in 2011 extended by decades the length of time that items of evidence that may contain DNA must be stored, and directed a group of stakeholders to come up with guidelines and best practices for the handling and storage of that evidence. However, many law enforcement officials see the legislation as merely a good first step, and moreover, an unfunded mandate.
A key piece of evidence that went missing in Hank Skinner’s murder case.
by Gray County Evidence Photo
Property and evidence technicians and managers are often poorly paid and receive very little training, if any, on how to do their jobs, says Vasquez. That’s a combination that can quickly lead to scandal for a police department working within a criminal justice system that increasingly relies on science to make evidence meaningful.
As forensic science evolves and DNA testing becomes more precise, the amount of material being collected has also increased, thrusting the maintenance of evidence – once considered the “red-headed stepchild of law enforcement,” says Vasquez – into the legal spotlight, and expanding the need for skilled inventory management. “We are somewhat overrun by stuff,” says Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis, a representative of the Texas Police Chiefs Association who was among a group of stakeholders involved last year in the creation of best practices for evidence preservation in Texas. DNA testing “has enhanced so that we’re able to process things and come up with DNA evidence where we couldn’t before.”
Without sufficient understanding of the critical role that the proper preservation of evidence now plays – not only in convicting the guilty, but also in freeing the innocent – the system is in serious trouble, officials warn. “Evidence has been one of the biggest issues we’re dealing with in law enforcement,” says Tony Widner, chief of the Graham PD, a small department south of Wichita Falls. “You’re not just talking about the credibility of the department; you’re talking about a victim seeing justice.”
Continue Reading @ Austin Chronicle
- DNA evidence frees Texas man convicted in ’81 stabbing death (cbsnews.com)
- Texas appeals court stays pending execution to allow DNA testing (sentencing.typepad.com)
State is the most generous in compensating exonerees; legislators ponder changes to safeguard against future false convictions.
By Mike Ward
For a state perhaps best known as the leader in executing murderers, Texas now has another distinction: It is the most generous in compensating those who were wrongly locked up.
In all, the state has paid more than $65 million to 89 wrongfully convicted people since 1992, according to updated state figures.
And if legislation being discussed at the Texas Capitol becomes law, that tab could soon grow.
“The justice system in Texas had fundamental flaws, and this is the result,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, a longtime champion of the falsely imprisoned. “At this point, I don’t think anyone can seriously doubt that we had a problem — a big problem.”
For a hint of how off-track Texas’ justice system once was, and how expensive those mistakes have become for taxpayers, consider the case of Michael Morton, the exonerated former Austin-area resident who served 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. A Williamson County court convicted him in 1987 of killing his wife Christine.
Morton, who was 57 when he was freed from prison in 2011, so far has received $1.96 million for his mistaken imprisonment, state records show.
Under a law signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2009, some exonerees will receive $80,000 each year for the rest of their lives and are eligible for the same health insurance as employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where the ex-prisoners did their time.
Twenty-six other states and the District of Columbia also provide compensation to exonerees — but they pay less, according to statistics compiled by the Innocence Project, a privately funded national initiative that works on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. Currently, Ellis, D-Houston, serves as its board chairman.
Since the first wrongful conviction through DNA was logged in 1989, 65 percent of exonerees nationally have received some form of compensation, according to the Innocence Project.
Continue Reading @ Statesman.com
- Innocent of Crime, Tainted by Time: Exonorees Struggle (citylimits.org)
- Wrongfully Accused; Wrongly Judged; Wrongfully Imprisoned (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Texas Leads U.S. in Executions, Payments to Exonerated Inmates (bloomberg.com)
When Beverly Monroe met her new neighbors in the free world after spending seven years in a Virginia prison for a crime she didn’t commit, she spoke candidly about her past. “I said I’d been through a crisis,” she says. “People immediately think a divorce or you lost your husband or something like that, which is all terrible enough.”
Monroe did lose her longtime boyfriend, Roger de la Burde, who was found shot to death with his own handgun in 1992. An overzealous state police agent suspected foul play, even though officials initially believed that de la Burde had shot himself. Monroe’s statements to police, which were deemed to be self-incriminating, coupled with an informant who received a deal from the prosecution in exchange for her testimony, formed the basis for the case against her. At 54, the mother of three was charged and convicted of murdering de la Burde and sentenced to twenty-two years at the Pocahontas Correctional Center. Monroe might have served the whole sentence had her attorneys not discovered a collection of concealed exculpatory documents, including a crucial medical examiner’s report from 1999 that strongly suggested that de la Burde had indeed committed suicide. In 2002 a US District Court judge vacated the conviction.
Now in her 70s, Monroe works as an administrative assistant. The lost income and lack of savings from her years behind bars have made retirement a distant dream. “I’ll have to work until I’m 105,” she says. Virginia has not compensated her for the years lost to prison or for her legal expenses. (Her trial cost nearly $200,000.)
“Being innocent in prison is real torture,” Monroe says. “It’s a lasting kind of trauma…. You’re released, and you realize that it didn’t just happen to you—it’s happened to other people who have had it so much worse.”
How many other people? No one knows. The Bureau of Justice Statistics doesn’t track exonerations, so for years that task has fallen to lawyers, academics and activists relying on news reports and legal filings. While the Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Information Center track exonerations, neither group’s database is complete. No single resource has amassed all of the known exoneration cases.
Until now. On May 21, the University of Michigan Law School, in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, released the first-ever National Registry of Exonerations. The searchable online database is the most credible and comprehensive resource on wrongful convictions in the United States. Peter Neufeld, the co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, has called it the “Wikipedia of Innocence.” The registry, which can be viewed at exonerationregistry.org, currently counts 891 cases since 1989, the year of the first exoneration achieved using DNA.
The scope is significant: reliable data on false convictions had been limited to DNA exonerations and death row exonerations. Beverly Monroe doesn’t fit either category, and neither would the vast majority of exonerated prisoners: less than 1 percent of the nation’s prison population is on death row, and DNA evidence applies only to a small fraction of all criminal cases—those with biological evidence like semen, blood, hair and saliva.
In addition to examining “a much broader group of exonerations,” according to University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett, the registry shows “that there are a lot of exonerations that don’t get a lot of press attention.” It also alters the conventional wisdom about how innocent people get convicted. For his 2011 book, Convicting the Innocent, Garrett scoured the first 250 DNA exonerations and identified eyewitness misidentification as the leading cause of those wrongful convictions (as have others). But the larger pool of cases reflected in the registry reveals other trends. According to University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, “perjury or false accusation” is the leading cause of wrongful conviction.
Continue Reading @ The Nation
- A Terrible Secret: An Introduction to Wrongful Convictions in America (uculr.com)
- What can and should we learn from the new “National Registry of Exonerations”? (sentencing.typepad.com)
- Meet Twenty-Two People Exonerated in 2012 (goodblacknews.org)
- Despite exonerations, eyewitness ID process virtually unchanged (ocregister.com)
- Since 1973, 141 People has Released from DR with Evidence of Innocence (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
Wrongful convictions are a continuing problem in the United States justice system. The news media is filled with reports where individuals have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately, this is only part of the story.
Over the last 13 years, the California Innocence Project (“CIP”) has exonerated 11 individuals who were wrongfully convicted and served a combined total of more than 113 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. In fact, you may have even heard about their most recent exoneree, Brian Banks. What you haven’t heard about are the California 12. CIP has identified 12 innocent clients, many who have been found innocent by a judge, yet remain incarcerated. On April 27, 2013, CIP will begin a march from San Diego to Sacramento to hand-deliver clemency petitions to the Governor of California on behalf of these clients:
I grew up in prison.
In 1994, I was sentenced to juvenile life without parole for a crime I did not commit. Had my life not changed last year, I would have died there.
I lived for 18 years with people who committed serious crimes as kids. I lived with them when Bill Clinton gave his first State of the Union address. When DVDs came out. When the planes hit the Twin Towers. When Barack Obama was elected.
I lived with them 10 months ago.
In 1994, there were kids serving life without parole that I thought deserved it. They were convicted of murders and showed no remorse. Why shouldn’t they die in prison?
But then, like kids do, they changed.
It sounds so obvious to say that you aren’t the same person you were when you were a kid, but I saw people in prison who were punished forever as if they’d never be more than the worst thing they had done as a kid — as if, no matter what, they’d never change or be worthy of the chance to prove they might deserve release.
That’s why I was thrilled to see that the Supreme Court this week recognized yet again that kids are different when it ruled in Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to impose an automatic sentence of life without parole on a child. Now a judge or jury can look at the kids they’re sentencing rather than disregarding any factors that might have led them to commit a serious crime. It means we’re one step closer to no longer being the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison.
I don’t want my country to tell any child that he or she is irredeemable. The Supreme Court’s ruling gives me hope that one day soon we will join the rest of the world in never telling children that they deserve to die in prison.
Jason Baldwin, one of three men known as the West Memphis 3, was sentenced to juvenile life without parole in 1994 for a crime he did not commit. He was incarcerated alongside Kuntrell Jackson, the petitioner in Jackson v. Hobbs. Since his release in August 2011, Jason has traveled across the country raising awareness about extreme sentencing for youth.
- Does Miller also render presumptive juve LWOP sentencing unconstitutional? (sentencing.typepad.com)
- American Criminal Punishment: Self-Defeating, Discriminatory, Inhumane (andrewhammel.typepad.com)
Statement from Attorney for Hank Skinner in Response to Initial DNA Test Results in Hank Skinner Case16 Nov
Following the advisory filed by the Attorney General’s office and media reports, Hank’s attorney issued the following press release:
Statement from Attorney for Hank Skinner in Response to Initial DNA Test Results in Hank Skinner Case
“We find it troubling that the Attorney General’s Office has seen fit to release partial results of the DNA testing and submit its ‘advisory’ to the court while the DNA testing is still in progress. The partial results which have been produced by the initial round of DNA testing show that at least one person other than Hank Skinner and the victims may have been present in the house on the night the murders took place, and may have had contact with one of the weapons used in the killings.
We will remain unable to draw any strong conclusions about whether the DNA testing has resolved the stubborn questions about Hank Skinner’s guilt or innocence until additional DNA testing has been completed, and the data underlying that DNA testing has been made available to our experts for a detailed review.
Specifically, DNA testing of a carpet sample from the bedroom occupied by victims Elwin Caler and Randy Busby reveals a mixture of the DNA of Mr. Caler and that of an unknown person who is not Mr. Skinner, Randy Busby, or Twila Busby.
In addition, DNA testing of one stain on a knife that may well have been used in the murders reveals a mixture of DNA from three contributors. Two of those contributors appear to be Mr. Caler and Mr. Skinner, but the third contributor is someone other than Mr. Caler, Mr. Skinner, Randy Busby or Twila Busby.
The DPS crime laboratory submitted the unknown DNA profile from the carpet sample to the Texas law enforcement DNA database, but that search produced no matches.
We have requested additional DNA testing that could improve the quality of the unknown DNA profile from the carpet sample, to allow authorities to submit it to CODIS, the national law enforcement DNA database, to search for matches there. We have also requested additional DNA testing of the stains from the knife, likewise hoping to develop further the DNA profile of the third contributor.
- AG Says DNA Tests Implicate Hank Skinner in ’93 Murders (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- DNA tests implicate Skinner, AG says (amarillo.com)
- Texas AG: New tests don’t clear death row inmate (star-telegram.com)
By Denise Jackson
PEORIA,IL–Johnnie Lee Savory continues his quest for DNA testing nearly 35 years since he was convicted for the murders of his friend and sister. Attorneys for Savory filed a motion in Peoria County Court Wednesday asking for DNA testing, saying new technology would support his claims of innocence.
Flanked by attorneys, supporters and Northwestern University law school students, Johnnie Lee Savory returned to Peoria Wednesday to file a motion for D-N-A testing in his 1977 murder case.
“The truth is what matters and we want the truth. We don’t want to continue with the same saga, year after year after year. But I’m prepared to fight as long as it takes,” he said.
Savory was convicted twice in the murders of 19-year old Connie Cooper and her brother 14-year old James Robinson. He was retried after the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that police obtained his confession illegally. In the second case the prosecution relied on testimony from three siblings who later recanted their statements about Savory admitting to the murders. Savory’s legal team wants DNA testing on 5 pieces of evidence, they say would support his innocence.
“It’s been a 35 year long struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King said the ark of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice and it’s time here in Peoria for it to bend towards justice in the case of Johnnie Lee Savory,” said Steven Drizin of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Savory was paroled in December of 2006 and has lived in Chicago. He was surrounded by several other men who say they were exonerated after DNA testing. He says it’s disturbing that his efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
“In all these cases of DNA why wouldn’t you allow the testing be used in my case? Why? That’s the only question that should occupy the networks and the newspaper,” he said.
Savory’s legal team says advances in DNA technology could finally bring clarity, and closure to the controversial case.
Via @ CINewsNow