After serving 26 years in a Texas prison for a 1982 rape he didn’t commit, Johnnie Earl Lindsey was freed on Sept. 19 due to DNA evidence of his innocence. Lindsey became the 21st person cleared by DNA testing in Dallas County.
He was convicted based on an eyewitness misidentification resulting from a faulty police procedure.
Exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth also spoke, telling the panel that he is “living proof that Maryland gets in wrong.”
The Alabama Supreme Court last week denied a request by the state to set a new execution date for Tommy Arthur, who has been on Alabama's death row for 25 years for a murder he says he didn't commit. A lower court is currently deciding whether DNA testing should be conducted in Arthur's case.
This month, Calvin Willis marked the fifth anniversary of his release from a Louisiana prison after serving 21 years for a crime he didn't commit.
Although Louisiana is one of 25 states with an exoneree compensation law, Willis has yet to be compensated.
Supreme Court to review prosecutorial misconduct
The Innocence Network this month filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief arguing whether top-level prosecutors should be held accountable when they set policies that could lead to wrongful convictions.
The case in question alleges that the former Los Angeles County District Attorney had no safeguards in place to ensure that snitches and informants wouldn't lie on the witness stand.
Georgia man gets last-minute stay, but questions about identifications remain
For nearly two decades, Troy Davis has sat in a cell on Georgia’s death row proclaiming his innocence to anyone who would listen. On Tuesday night, he came within two hours of being executed, before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay. In what could have been his final hours, he said goodbye to his mother and sister and recorded his final statement. It was the second time in two years that he had come within a day of execution.
The Supreme Court granted the stay in order to decide whether it would hear Davis’ appeal for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence of his innocence. Davis was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer in Savannah in 1989. Seven of the nine non-police eyewitnesses who testified against Davis at trial have recanted, many of them saying their statements were coerced by police. Despite this and other evidence of Davis’ innocence, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis a new trial. The Innocence Network filed a brief in the case, highlighting the unreliability of eyewitness identification evidence which has been a factor more than 75% of the 220 wrongful convictions overturned with DNA testing to date. Last year, the Georgia Legislature took steps to begin improving eyewitness identification procedures statewide which could help prevent future wrongful convictions based on eyewitness misidentification.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in the next week, and if they refuse to hear the case a new execution date will likely be set.
In Tennessee and Texas, two men wait to clear their names.
In two weeks, Paul House could face the beginning of a new trial as he continues the quest to prove his innocence that has endured for more than two decades while his health has steadily declined. House, who has multiple sclerosis, was sentenced to death in Tennessee for a 1985 murder he has always said he didn’t commit. He was released from prison in July and a new trial against him is pending.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that a reasonable juror, considering DNA evidence in House’s case, would not have convicted him. Now, new DNA tests have found that another piece of evidence from the crime scene comes from an unknown man and not House. Despite all of this evidence, prosecutors have resisted calls to drop charges against House, 46, who is confined to a wheelchair and cannot eat or bathe by himself.
The Innocence Project filed a friend of the court brief when the Supreme Court heard the case in 2006.
Meanwhile, Innocence Project client Clay Chabot remains under virtual house arrest in Texas while prosecutors decide whether to retry him for a 1986 murder. Chabot was released from prison last year when DNA testing proved that he did not rape the victim, as prosecutors maintained. Instead, the DNA showed that Jerry Pabst who testified against Chabot in exchange for an undisclosed deal with prosecutors committed the crime, and an Innocence Project investigation led authorities to apprehend Pabst. Late last week, a jury convicted of Pabst of murder, and he will serve life in prison. The future remains uncertain for Chabot, who served 21 years in prison for Pabst’s crime.
“We are glad that the DNA testing and investigation we did in Clay Chabot’s case helped identify and apprehend Jerry Pabst, and we commend the District Attorney’s office for finally bringing Pabst to justice,” Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said. “Clay Chabot fought for years for the DNA testing that led a judge to recommend overturning his conviction and resulted in Jerry Pabst’s arrest. With justice finally done, we hope Clay’s case can be resolved quickly.”
We’ll post updates on both of these cases and on other cases in which the Innocence Project is involved on the Innocence Blog as they happen. Click here to subscribe to a daily email digest from the Innocence Blog.
Help us improve this newsletter by taking our online survey
Last week, we asked members of our online community to take a survey to help us learn a little more about who you are and what kind of communications you find most useful from the Innocence Project. If you have already taken the survey, thank you very much for your input.
Our goal is to create an online community that is devoted to our mission and meets your needs for information, communication, and action. Your anonymous responses will help us plan our outreach campaigns for the rest of the year and throughout 2009.
Thank you in advance for your help and participation.
Hundreds of young New Yorkers gathered two weeks ago at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City to support the Innocence Project Exoneree Fund and learn more about the cause. Speakers included New Jersey exoneree David Shephard (above left), who served 10ten years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck (above right). (The Rubin Museum of Art is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art of the Himalayas.)
The event was the first benefit hosted by the Innocence Project Young Professionals Committee, and the group will be planning future events in New York. Meanwhile, you can plan events in your community to raise funds and build support for criminal justice reform. Click here to get started on hosting an event in your area. See photos from the New York City event here.
If you are interested in learning more about the Young Professionals Committee, or getting involved in our New York City events, email us here.
Why I Give: Crystal Marcos-Farmer
I first learned of the Innocence Project last year. I received a newsletter in the mail and almost threw it in the recycle bin, because I didn't recognize who sent it. Instead I opened the envelope, and was immediately taken by the emotions on the faces of the people I glanced upon. I was compelled to read their stories. Each of these people was someone's brother, sister, mother, father, husband or wife,...someone's someone. I couldn’t believe so many people had been freed (220 so far), and I knew that meant there were more innocent people in prison still waiting for their freedom.
I may have even heard about some of these people years ago, but had long since forgotten. It amazes me and touches me deeply that a non-profit organization has made it their responsibility to help these defendants who no one else remembered. The Innocence Project is improving our criminal justice system, and donating during the DNA testing campaign was my way on this birthday of contributing to someone's new life. I only wish I could have learned of the Innocence Project sooner.
Thanks to generous donations from Crystal Marcos-Farmer and hundreds of others, we reached our goal of $25,000 for DNA testing on September 17.
We have reopened this campaign for today only. Donate online today and every penny of your gift will go toward DNA testing for Innocence Project clients.
To receive a copy of the most recent Innocence Project in Print, email us here or respond to this email.