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New evidence should overturn New Jersey murder conviction
Two days to execution in Alabama, still no DNA test
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News from the innocence movement around the United States
Detroit exoneree gets hero’s welcome in Ireland
Innocence Project client Walter Swift returned to Michigan last week after a three-week tour of Ireland, where he met with leading government officials and attorneys and appeared several times in the national media.
Swift, who served 26 years in Michigan prison before he was exonerated in May,was freed partly thanks to the tireless efforts of Niamh Gunn, an Irish businesswoman who first worked on his case during a summer internship at the Innocence Project in 2003.
Gunn continued to work on Swift’s case after leaving the Innocence Project, and her investigations led to the discovery of much of the evidence that exonerated him. As a result of publicity about his case in Ireland, Swift became well-known there and received a hero’s welcome over the last three weeks.
Watch a video of Swift, Gunn and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck on Irish national television.
Prosecutors’ group honors Innocence Project
On July 14, the National Black Prosecutors Association gave its annual Thurgood Marshall Award to the Innocence Project for pursuing justice. Milton Hirsch, a Florida criminal defense attorney who has worked in partnership with the Innocence Project on several exonerations, accepted the award at the NBPA’s annual conference.
"It is, I think, a coming of age for the Innocence Project that a national organization of prosecutors honors us with its Thurgood Marshall award. It is a recognition of the tautology that all lawyers have a shared interest in seeing the truth unearthed and justice done,” Hirsch wrote in a blog post about accepting the award. Read his full post here.
"The most important thing"
Three recently exonerated men spoke on July 19 in Texas about the need for reforms to prevent future injustice there, as well as measures to help the wrongfully convicted adjust to their freedom after release. Billy James Smith, who served 19 years for a rape he didn’t commit, talked about the difficulties exonerees face.
"The most difficult thing is when I have to tell people I was in prison and what happened to me. And then the next difficult thing is when they ask me if I'm getting compensation, like if that was the most important thing," Smith said. "The most important thing is to be stable and to be able to function."
Read more about the event and Smith’s case
Tankleff speaks out
Eight months after his release, but finally cleared of all charges last week, New Yorker Marty Tankleff told a group of law students and attorneys this week that reforms requiring the recording of interrogations would prevent wrongful convictions like his.
"For 20 years, in my case, there have been two competing versions of what took place in the interrogation room," Tankleff told the audience, going on to speak about the importance of videotaping complete interrogations so juries can see the facts for themselves.
Read more here..
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|Hearing today in New Jersey; new evidence should overturn murder conviction
Darrell Edwards has been behind bars in New Jersey for nearly a decade for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit, and Innocence Project attorneys will argue at a hearing this afternoon that new DNA test results and other substantial evidence should lead to a new trial in his case.
Edwards (above) was convicted and sentenced to life in prison based mainly on faulty eyewitness identification. One key witness who testified at Edwards’ trial that she saw him from 271 feet away, at night, without wearing her glasses has recanted her identification, saying she was “just guessing” and that police influenced her choice. New scientific evidence presented today by the Innocence Project also shows that identifying a person from 271 feet — even an acquaintance — is impossible. Another eyewitness to the shooting told police that he saw the killer from 20 feet away and that it wasn’t Edwards. Police tried to influence this witness to identify Edwards, then labeled him a hostile witness when he refused to cooperate.
It took three years for Edwards’ case to go to trial, and it would take four trials to convict him. Now, the Innocence Project is fighting to overturn his conviction based on the wide array of newly discovered evidence. New DNA tests show that biological evidence on the gun used in the murder and a sweatshirt worn by the assailant exclude Edwards. At a hearing this afternoon in Newark, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin will tell a state judge that they believe Edwards is innocent and that the law says he is at least entitled to a new trial. Cardozo School of Law clinic students have worked on the case at the Innocence Project and will attend today’s hearing.
“In recent years, New Jersey has become a leader in reforming police lineups and photo arrays to decrease eyewitness misidentifications. Darrell Edwards was convicted before these reforms were in place, and before scientific experts shed new light on just how impossible it is to accurately identify someone from this distance,” Scheck said.
Read more about Edwards’ case in today’s Innocence Project press release. Prosecutors are opposing the Innocence Project’s motion for a new trial, and the judge is expected to rule at a later date. Check the Innocence Blog for updates.
Two days to execution in Alabama, still no DNA test
For nearly 25 years, Tommy Arthur has sat on Alabama’s death row. His appeals have been repeatedly denied, and he is now scheduled to die on Thursday night, July 31, despite the fact that critical evidence in his case has still not been subjected to DNA testing. The evidence could help show whether Arthur is guilty or innocent, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (above) has the authority to order the tests, but he has refused to do so.
Compensation and social services to help the exonerated build new lives
Why We Give: Risa and Benjamin Chalfin