Order by: Date Relevancy
Your search returned 25 entries.
Reversal of misfortune
Posted: June 11, 2007 1:01 pm
Willie Jackson served 17 years in Louisiana prisons for a rape that his brother confessed to days after Willie’s arrest. That’s how long it took for Louisiana officials to consider the confession of Milton Jackson and to order DNA testing in Willie’s case to prove the identity of the perpetrator. In 2006, test results came back proving that Milton committed the rape. Willie was released from prison that year.
“My brother’s involvement in the situation...” Jackson said before falling silent, still struggling with the betrayal. “Milton sat back and kept quiet until the jury found me guilty. He came forward two days later and told the district attorney’s office that he was the guy, but they thought he was making it up and didn’t do nothin’ about it.”Read the full story here. (New Orleans City Business, 06/11/2007)Read more about Willie Jackson's case in our Know the Cases section.
Tags: Louisiana, Willie Jackson
Louisiana exoneree starts reentry program
Posted: June 6, 2007
John Thompson spent 18 years in Louisiana prison – including 14 on death row – for a murder he didn’t commit. When a prosecutor made public that he had concealed evidence at Thompson’s 1984 trial that could have proven his innocence, he got a new trial and was acquitted of the charges in 2003.
Thompson was released with a small bag of possessions and given $10 for bus fare. He says he founded Resurrection After Exoneration to make sure that no future exonerees are dropped into freedom like he was. And he was recently awarded a two-year, $60,000 grant from Echoing Green to build RAE’s capacity.
Thompson said the wrongfully convicted have a hard time finding a place to live where they can be at peace. Most are forced to move in with family members, which can cause turmoil. Former inmates often have difficulties communicating because no one understands what they’ve been through and the effect it’s had on their psyche.
“You can’t communicate with your family. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing,” Thompson said. “You’re supposed to get a job but because of your record or attitude you can’t. It’s not what we wanted to come home to but we have no choice. And that’s the worst — being a grown man having to depend on someone else for help. And it all goes back to that one thing — what I experienced in that prison but no one wants to recognize it.”NOTE: Because Thompson was not exonerated as a result of DNA testing, his case is not listed as one of the 202 DNA exonerations tracked by the Innocence Project.
Resurrection After Exoneration will offer the wrongfully convicted a place to live, jobs and courses in how to manage finances. Participants will be asked to set aside at least 25 percent of their paychecks in savings accounts. After a year, RAE will match the savings to help find independent housing.
Read the full story. (New Orleans City Business, 06/04/07)
Tags: Louisiana, Exoneree Compensation, Government Misconduct
Supreme Court to review justice in Louisiana
Posted: June 26, 2007 3:00 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday accepted one of three Louisiana cases, declining to hear the other two. In Snyder v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether race played a role in the jury selection of a death row case. The all-white jury sentenced Allen Snyder, a black man, to death row in 1996. Previously, in a case from Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a black man’s death sentence because prosecutors had kept black people off the jury.
Without comment, the Supreme Court declined to hear two other Louisiana cases – both involving foreign attorneys practicing law in the United States.
At issue is a Louisiana Supreme Court decision in 2002 that said only foreigners on a path to become citizens may practice law in the state. The lawyers affected by the ruling said they went to Louisiana to help address a severe shortage of lawyers for poor defendants. One British lawyer, Emily Maw, received her law degree from Tulane University in 2003 and is director of Innocence Project New Orleans, which represents indigent clients. She also is a practicing lawyer in Mississippi.Read the full text of the article here.
Find out about other Innocence Projects.
Wrongful convictions a factor in death penalty case before U.S. Supreme Court
Posted: January 7, 2008 4:40 pm
This spring, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of capital punishment for the crime of child rape. Defendant Patrick Kennedy, convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter, brought the case, arguing that execution for rape is cruel and unusual punishment. In a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has raised the concern that impressionable witnesses (such as children) increase the chances of wrongful conviction. The Louisiana law, the group says, presents “an intolerably high risk” that innocent defendants will be put to death.
Read more about Kennedy v. Louisiana here.
Download the NACDL Amicus brief.
New York Times: Justices to decide if rape of a child merits death
The court also heard oral arguments this morning in Baze v. Rees, asking whether Kentucky’s lethal injection practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. While a decision on this case is pending, most states have ceased to carry out lethal injections. Read more about Baze v. Rees here.
Tags: Kentucky, Louisiana
Adequate defense counsel can prevent wrongful convictions
Posted: April 11, 2008 4:15 pm
Too many wrongful convictions are caused by the lack of experienced and available public defenders. For decades, the American criminal justice system has failed to consistently provide resources for the defense of people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer themselves. And the inequalities don’t stop with lawyers. Prosecutors have state resources to hire courtroom experts; they have police departments to act as investigators. Public defenders struggle with caseloads in the hundreds and nearly nonexistent funds for investigations and experts. To prevent wrongful convictions in our country, this has to change.
Headlines around the country this month show that budget shortfalls threaten even the low standards of public defense in many states. Lawmakers in Kentucky – where the average public defender has 436 clients in a year – recently slashed $2.5 million from the state’s public defense budget. Georgia’s public defense system is near the breaking point.
But there are signs of progress on the horizon:
This week, commissioners in Houston – the largest urban area in the country without a public defense office – voted to explore the creation of a department. Currently, elected judges appoint attorneys and set budgets for investigation and experts, creating a system with little quality control and no consistency. A public defense office would bring that consistency to the city.
Also this week, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr., praised state lawmakers for advances in public defense in recent years, and called for continued growth in the delivery of defense to the poor.
Read more about how overworked – or negligent – defense attorneys have contributed to the problem of wrongful convictions.
Tags: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Bad Lawyering
New video: Louisiana exonerees reunite after 16 years
Posted: June 19, 2008 10:19 am
Rickey Johnson and Calvin Willis met in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison in the 1980s and quickly became friends. Although they didn’t discuss their cases in prison, the two men were both fighting to overturn their wrongful convictions. Willis learned about the Innocence Project and contacted us seeking assistance. When he found out that Rickey was also seeking DNA testing, he shared the Innocence Project’s address with him.
In the early 1990s, they were moved to different sections of the 5,000-inmate prison and they lost touch. In 2003, Rickey heard that Calvin had been exonerated, but he wasn’t able to say goodbye. Rickey waited for his own exoneration until 2008, when DNA test results proved his innocence of the rape for which he was serving a life sentence. He had served 25 years before his release in January. Today he says he wouldn’t be free if it weren’t for Calvin.
The two friends were finally reunited at the Innocence Network Conference in March. Watch a new video of the men’s emotional reunion, and listen as Calvin describes the moment shackles were removed from his hands and feet.
“It felt like my hands just rose up,” Calvin says.
“I know the feeling,” Rickey responds. “I know the feeling.”
Louisiana exonerees meet for the first time in 16 years [video: 04:12]
Tags: Louisiana, Rickey Johnson, Calvin Willis
Supreme Court strikes death penalty for child rape
Posted: June 26, 2008 2:27 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday issued overturned laws that allow defendants convicted of sexually assaulting children to be executed, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing in the majority of a 5-4 decision that “the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken.” The decision, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, will lead to resentencing of defendant Patrick Kennedy, who was convicted of raping an eight-year-old girl.
An editorial in today’s USA Today says the court is right to continuing narrowing the death penalty, especially due to the inequality of its application and the chances of executing an innocent person.
When the court brought back the death penalty 32 years ago, it set a standard that executions be administered evenhandedly.
Reality has turned out otherwise. The odds of receiving a death sentence are three or four times greater when the victim is white than if the victim is a minority. Defendants sometimes lack competent legal representation. Evidence can be flawed.
Worst of all is the potential for a mistaken execution. DNA testing has exonerated 16 inmates who served time on death row, according to the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic that handles cases in which post-conviction DNA testing can prove innocence. Such proof, of course, is of no use to a prisoner who has been executed.
Read the full editorial here. (USA Today, 06/26/08)
The National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Kennedy v. Louisiana, arguing that cases with impressionable witnesses – like young children – could have a higher rate of wrongful conviction. Read more about the case, and download NACDL’s brief, here.
Louisiana exoneree to receive $150K in compensation
Posted: July 7, 2008 3:25 pm
Rickey Johnson, who was freed in January after serving 25 years in Louisiana’s Angola prison for a rape he didn’t commit, will receive $150,000 in compensation from the state for his wrongful incarceration. While Johnson says that no amount of money could ever replace the years he lost, he is looking forward to using the money to start a new business making leather goods such as belts and wallets.
“Rickey Johnson lost more than a quarter of a century, nearly his entire adult life, to a wrongful conviction. He had three young children when he was arrested, and a fourth was born shortly after he was incarcerated; all of those children are now adults,” said Vanessa Potkin, the Innocence Project staff attorney representing Johnson.
Read the full story here. (Leesville Daily Leader, 07/07/08)
Watch a new Innocence Project video of Johnson and fellow Louisiana exoneree Calvin Willis reuniting after Johnson’s release.
Johnson’s compensation comes under a state law that pays exonerees $15,000 for each year they served, to a maximum of $150,000. While Louisiana is one of 25 states with a compensation law, the amounts provided in the law are well behind the federal standard of $50,000 per year served, with no maximum. Several states, including Texas, Utah and Florida, have recently passed laws matching the federal amount, and the Innocence Project strongly supports efforts by lawmakers to bring state compensation laws in line with federal recommendations to include critical social services as well as financial payments.
What’s the law in your state? Find out on our interactive map.
Tags: Louisiana, Rickey Johnson, Exoneree Compensation
Fighting Police Misconduct in New Orleans
Posted: August 30, 2010 5:19 pm
“If you lie, you die,” Superintendent Serpas said in announcing the new standard. “If you tell this Police Department a lie about anything, you will be terminated.”
The new rule is part of a larger strategy announced by Serpas and New Orleans to repair the city’s police department. Department-wide reviews by the U.S. Justice Department and an audit of questionable crime statistics are also part of the plan.
While most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, the possibility for corruption exists. Even if one officer of every thousand is dishonest, wrongful convictions will continue to occur. The police misconduct in the NOPD taints the reputation of their honest colleagues.
U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Compensation for Former Death Row Inmate
Posted: March 29, 2011 5:03 pm
Of the 16 federal judges, eight held that the jury had already spoken after hearing the facts, while the dissenters said it is an outrageous burden to hold a district attorney's office accountable for employees' misdeeds.
The ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, means that Thompson will not collect the money.
In response to the ruling, the Innocence Network released a letter signed by 19 innocent people who were wrongfully convicted in part because of the bad acts of prosecutors demanding greater accountability for prosecutorial misconduct. In the letter, the exonerees explain:
In many of our wrongful conviction cases prosecutorial misconduct was found but later declared “harmless” by the courts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In our cases, each act had profoundly harmful effects on our lives. Together we represent hundreds of years in prison, separated from our wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and other loved ones, who suffered their own shame and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and spent countless sleepless nights worrying about our well being. The misconduct contributed to nearly unbearable depression and unhappiness, loss of jobs and career opportunities, the derailing of educations and forever destroyed hopes and dreams. Each of us has worked long and hard to repair what has happened to us, but we will never regain the lives we had before we were wrongfully convicted at the hands of careless or deceitful prosecutors.
Read the full article.
Read the decision.
Read the Innocence Network press release on the decision.
Read the letter urging action to stem prosecutorial misconduct.
New Orleans Judge Evaluates Prisoner's Claim of Innocence
Posted: January 24, 2012 2:20 pm
Tags: Louisiana, Eyewitness Identification, Booker Diggins
Prosecutorial Oversight: John Thompson and His Fight for Justice
Posted: February 8, 2012 4:00 pm
Tags: Louisiana, Government Misconduct
Friday Roundup: Favorable Compensation, Actual Innocence Bills
Posted: March 2, 2012 2:20 pm
Tags: Florida, Louisiana, Utah, Wisconsin
Louisiana Compensation Falls Short
Posted: March 12, 2012 5:00 pm
Attorneys Work to Hold Orleans Parish Prosecutors Accountable
Posted: April 19, 2012 5:30 pm
Tags: Louisiana, Government Misconduct
Legislation to Increase Louisiana’s Compensation Dies
Posted: June 6, 2012 4:30 pm
Legislation that would have doubled Louisiana’s compensation for the wrongfully convicted fell flat this session, despite the fact that the state maximum of $250,000 is among the lowest of the states which compensate the wrongly convicted, according to The Times-Picayune.
After resistance from the governor to a proposed bill by Rep. Herbert Dixon that would have doubled the state’s compensation maximum, Dixon proposed a compromise bill that would have expedited and simplified the process for exonerees seeking compensation by eliminating the need for them to petition judges annually for the compensation. Dixon also supported another bill that would have created a funding source for the Innocence Compensation Fund.
Read the full article.
Read about compensation for the wrongly convicted.
National View: 27 States Have Compensation Statutes: Is Yours One?
Louisiana Exonerees File Civil Suit in Prosecutorial Misconduct Case
Posted: July 18, 2012 12:15 pm
Two former Louisiana inmates who served 27 years for a 1975 murder before their convictions were overturned have filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking $1 million for each year spent behind bars. Gregory Bright and Earl Truvia, who also want punitive damages, accuse prosecutors under former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick of withholding key evidence from the defense.
Among the missing evidence was a report showing that police questioned two suspects before Bright and Truvia and that the only witness was a paranoid schizophrenic who testified under a false name to hide her background, reported The Times-Picayune.
Attorneys for the city and the District Attorney’s office asked the judge to dismiss the suit saying that they were not required to turn over the evidence.
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Connick v. Thompson finding that the prosecutor’s office could not be held liable for failing to train prosecutors to turn over evidence based on the evidence presented in that case. John Thompson was exonerated after serving 18 years—14 in isolation on death row—for a murder he did not commit. He sued the District Attorney’s Office but the state appealed to the high court.
“Wrongful convictions are caused by lawyers and we simply don't hold them to account," said Emily Maw, director of Innocence Project New Orleans. "It's absolutely both sides. Crappy defense lawyers are just as responsible.”
After a four-year fight for compensation, Bright, 56, and Truvia, 53, were recently awarded $190,000 each by the state under a Louisiana law that grants compensation to those wrongfully convicted.
The judge has declined to rule immediately on the motion to dismiss the case.
Read the full article.
Overhaul of New Orleans Police Department
Posted: July 25, 2012 5:15 pm
In an effort to clean up a police force that has been plagued by decades of corruption and mismanagement, a federal agreement to implement police reforms within the New Orleans Police Department was signed Tuesday, reported the Associated Press.
The agreement lists several requirements aimed at improving the current policies and procedures, including recording of interrogations, which has been shown to prevent wrongful convictions based on false confessions. According to United States Attorney General Eric Holder, the 124-page proposed overhaul is the most wide ranging in Justice Department history.
"There can be no question that today's action represents a critical step forward," Holder said. "It reaffirms the Justice Department's commitment to fair and vigorous law enforcement at every level."
A federal judge is to approve the agreement and then manage its implementation. But Holder said Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas didn't wait for the agreement to be signed before establishing the reforms.
"The problems that we have identified were many years in the making and preceded this current administration," Holder said. "They are wide-ranging and they are deeply-rooted. Sustainable reform will not occur overnight, but we can all be encouraged that it is already happening here thanks to the leadership of Mayor Landrieu, Chief Serpas and so many others."
In previous years, the Justice Department has reached similar agreements with police departments in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Detroit. Mayor Landrieu estimates the city will spend roughly $11 million per year for the next four or five years to implement the reforms.
Read the full article.
Read about the Innocence Project’s recommendations for recording interrogations.
Exonerees Featured on Oprah Winfrey Network
Posted: August 15, 2012 4:15 pm
On Tuesday night, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) premiered an episode of Lisa Ling’s Our America dedicated to wrongful convictions. “Innocent Behind Bars,” featured exoneree and Resurrection After Exoneration Founder John Thompson, Innocence Project New Orleans Director Emily Maw and exonerees Michael Graham, Phillip Bivens and Derrick Jamison.
Watch parts of the episode.
Learn more about Resurrection After Exoneration.
Tags: Louisiana, Phillip Bivens
"Herman's House" to Screen at Harlem International Film Festival
Posted: September 18, 2012 5:20 pm
A new documentary about the unlikely friendship between Louisiana inmate Herman Wallace and New York artist Jackie Sumell will be screened at the opening night of the Harlem International Film Festival on Wednesday.
Co-presented by The Correctional Association of New York, “Herman’s House” explores the injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art. It attempts to answer the question: “What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?” The film will screen at 9 p.m. in the Langston Hughes Auditorium at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.
Wallace and two other men are known as the Angola Three, named for the Louisiana prison where they collectively spent over 100 years in solitary confinement. Wallace was already serving time for a bank robbery when he came under investigation for the 1972 murder of a prison guard. According to court records, more than 200 inmates were questioned, none of whom were white. Wallace was convicted based largely on the testimony of another inmate who received special treatment in exchange for his testimony and sentenced to solitary confinement where he remained for more than three decades when he was moved to another prison where he is still confined to his solitary cell for 23 hours a day. The physical evidence that was collected from the crime scene was never tested and other evidence was lost. Another inmate has since confessed to the murder.
Learn more about the film.
Damon Thibodeaux Roundup: 300 and Counting
Posted: October 1, 2012 4:25 pm
Tags: Louisiana, Damon Thibodeaux
NYCLU Report Opens Window on Solitary Confinement Experience
Posted: October 2, 2012 2:50 pm
Tags: Louisiana, New York, Damon Thibodeaux
In Memory of Allen Coco
Posted: October 12, 2012 4:26 pm
Passover and the Innocence Project
Posted: April 1, 2013 11:10 am
Tags: Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Marvin Anderson, Damon Thibodeaux, Michael Morton
Historic Brady Rule Doesn't Always Hold Up
Posted: May 14, 2013 3:20 pm
Tags: Louisiana, Michael Morton, John Thompson