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DNA testing leads to actual perpetrator in Georgia case
Posted: February 12, 2007
Willie “Pete” Williams served 21 years in prison before DNA testing, obtained by his attorneys at the Georgia Innocence Project, proved his innocence. Those same DNA results have now led police to another man, Kenneth Wicker, who has been arrested and charged with the 1985 rape for which Williams was convicted.
Wicker pled guilty to similar crimes in 1985 and was presented as an alternate suspect by Williams’ lawyers in a 1986 appeal. The victim had picked Williams out of a photo lineup, however, and said she was 120 percent certain he was the perpetrator.
Williams' attorney at the time, Michael Schumacher, said Friday the April 1985 attacks were not linked to Wicker because authorities were already locked in on Williams as a suspect.Williams has not been officially exonerated yet – he is awaiting a court hearing that will officially clear his record. Check back here for updates.
Schumacher even brought up the Wicker assaults in a 1986 hearing while trying to get his client a new trial. That hearing, where the attorney even had brought Wicker into the courtroom, most likely laid the groundwork that led to Wicker's arrest Friday.
"There's no way he'd be arrested now without that," Schumacher said. "I laid the trail of crumbs for someone else to come and pick up."
There are eerie similarities in looking at police reports from the time….
Williams was accused of raping a woman April 5, 1985, and attempting to rape another five days later. He was arrested April 28, 1985.
"But the attacks continued with the same M.O., down to the same words — he asked the victims about 'Carol,' " Schumacher said.
Read the full story. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 02/10/07, Payment required for full article)
- Previous blog entries on this case.
- All six Georgia men who have been proven innocent by DNA testing were misidentified by eyewitnesses or victims. Now Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill to improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.
- The Georgia Innocence Project website
Learn more about eyewitness misidentification in our Understand The Causes section.
Tags: Georgia, Willie Williams
Georgia man to be compensated for 24 years of wrongful incarceration
Posted: May 25, 2007
Robert Clark was exonerated in 2005 after serving more than half of his life in prison for a 1981 rape he didn’t commit. Yesterday, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law that grants Clark $1.2 million in compensation for the injustice he suffered. The bill was approved by Georgia lawmakers on March 19.
"I think his reaction is going to be a gigantic smile," said Aimee Maxwell of the Georgia Innocence Project, which helped clear Clark. "And I think he will be relieved that the process has reached its successful conclusion."Associated Press: Perdue signs bills, compensates man freed through DNA
Read the full story here. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 5/24/07)
Georgia does not have a general state law for compensating the wrongly convicted and this bill only applies to Clark. Perdue has said that the state should create standards for compensation of all wrongly convicted people.
video interview with Robert Clark to our YouTube page. View the video here, along with other interviews and footage from recent Innocence Project events.
Tags: Georgia, Robert Clark, Exoneree Compensation
Georgia hearings on eyewitness identification start this week
Posted: September 18, 2007 10:09 am
A new committee of the Georgia legislature began hearing testimony yesterday on proposed state laws governing eyewitness identification procedures. Georgia Innocence Project Director Aimee Maxwell testified, as well as Innocence Project client Calvin Johnson, Jr., who was misidentified by an eyewitness and wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.
More than 80 percent of Georgia police departments responding to a recent survey said they had no written standards for eyewitness identifications. One of the first steps to statewide identification reform is to adopt written policies following accepted procedures.
Read more: Most Georgia police have no eyewitness guidelines (Associated Press, 09/17/07)
Men freed from jail urge change in eyewitness IDs (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 09/18/07)
For the hearing schedule and more background on the new committee, visit the Georgia Innocence Project’s website.
In addition to Calvin Johnson, other Georgia exonerees will be present at today’s hearing. Read more about their cases here.
Watch video of a speech by Calvin Johnson, Jr. and an interview with Georgia exoneree Robert Clark.
Tags: Georgia, Robert Clark, Calvin Johnson, Eyewitness Identification
Crime victim calls for better identification practices in Georgia
Posted: October 23, 2007 4:45 pm
After Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was raped in 1984, she identified a man in a police lineup as her attacker. The officer conducting the lineup told her she had done a “good job,” confirming that she’d picked the suspect. Eleven years later, DNA evidence proved that suspect, Ronald Cotton, had been wrongfully convicted of the rape.
Before a rapt audience Monday at a legislative study committee hearing, Cannino recounted the horror of her sexual assault on June 29, 1984, and her horror when learning 11 years later she had misidentified her attacker and helped send the wrong man to prison. The real attacker, later identified by DNA evidence, had gone on to rape six more women after he attacked Cannino.Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and Iowa State Psychology Professor Gary Wells also testified before the group Monday, describing lineup procedures proven to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. Download the study committee’s full schedule here.
"It's a human system," Cannino said. "We are fallible. We make mistakes. There are practices that can be put into place."
Read the full story here. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 10/23/07)
Read more about Ronald Cotton’s wrongful conviction and exoneration here.
Tags: Georgia, Ronald Cotton, Eyewitness Identification
John Jerome White Cleared by DNA in Atlanta
Posted: December 12, 2007 1:00 pm
John Jerome White became the seventh Georgia man to be cleared by DNA evidence yesterday. White was wrongfully convicted in 1980 for the rape and robbery of a 74-year-old woman. DNA from hairs found at the scene excluded White and matched a convicted rapist serving time in a Georgia state prison. That man was arrested Tuesday. In each of the Georgia cases, eyewitness misidentification was a factor contributing to the wrongful conviction. White’s case underscores the need to reform identification procedures, said Aimee Maxwell of the Georgia Innocence Project which represented White.
Maxwell said her organization is working with state lawmakers and authorities to require all law enforcement agencies to develop and follow clearly written procedures for doing an eyewitness identification with a victim, Maxwell said. The organization says 82 percent of the 355 Georgia law enforcement agencies surveyed do not have any type of written eyewitness standards.
Read the full story here. (AP, 12/12/07)Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence. The Innocence Project advocates reforms that are proven to reduce the incidence of misidentifications. For more information about how eyewitness misidentifications occur and how they can be prevented click here.
Tags: Georgia, Eyewitness Misidentification
White’s exoneration raises questions about racial inequity in the Georgia criminal justice system
Posted: December 13, 2007 5:15 pm
On Tuesday, John Jerome White became the seventh Georgia man, and the 210th nationwide, to be exonerated through DNA evidence. In all seven cases, an eyewitness misidentification contributed to the wrongful conviction, and all seven of the wrongfully convicted have been black men. Atlanta Journal-Constitution guest columnist, Rick Daguette, a former spokesman for the Georgia Supreme Court, writes about the racial disparity in the criminal justice system and wonders how many more innocent people will have to be exonerated in the state of Georgia before the system changes.
There are any number of reasons people can be convicted of crimes they did not commit. In many cases, however, unreliable eyewitness identification is one very common denominator. But race seems to be the deciding factor. If it isn't, then maybe someone can explain why all seven men thus far exonerated in Georgia have been black.For more information about White’s case, see the Georgia Innocence Project press release.
Read the full opinion editorial here. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/12/07)
Click here for more on reforms to prevent eyewitness misidentification.
Cross-Posted: Georgia lawmakers advance eyewitness identification reform
Posted: February 13, 2008 11:02 am
Ben Hiltzheimer wrote this week on the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog about reforms pending before Georgia's legislature. The full post is here:
GA House Committee Approves Eyewitness ID ReformsRead more about eyewitness identification reforms supported by the Innocence Project.
A Georgia House of Representatives committee recently approved two pieces of legislation designed to reform police procedures for collecting eyewitness evidence.
The Non-Civil Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve HB 997 and 10 to 5 to approve HR 1071. The legislation now heads to the House Rules Committee for consideration with a favorable recommendation.
The bill, known as the Witness Identification Accuracy Enhancement Act, calls for the state law enforcement agency to develop a set of guidelines for the collection of eyewitness evidence in showups, photo arrays, and live lineups. It also calls on the state public safety training center to work with prosecutors to develop a training program for implementation of the procedures.
The House Resolution outlines specific best practices for conducting the identification procedures. Importantly, the resolution “strongly encourages” double-blind lineup procedures, where the administrator of the lineup would be a “neutral independent administrator, when feasible, and no person familiar with the identity of the suspect should be present during a photographic lineup or physical lineup.” This is arguably the most important requirement of the two pieces of legislation, as social scientists are broadly in agreement that the communication of subtle cues — either inadvertent or intentional — to witnesses by lineup administrators regarding the identity of the police suspect is the primary flaw in status quo lineup practices that lead to misidentification, and ultimately wrongful conviction.
The full test of the best practices outline in the resolution are as follows:(1) It is strongly encouraged that the administrator of a photographic lineup or physical lineup should be a neutral independent administrator, when feasible, and no person familiar with the identity of the suspect should be present during a photographic lineup or physical lineup;
(2) Prior to beginning a photographic lineup or physical lineup identification procedure, the administrator should instruct the witness that:
(A) The witness does not have to make an identification, and the identification procedure is important to the investigation whether or not an identification is made;
(B) The individuals depicted in the photographic lineup or physical lineup may not appear exactly as the witness observed on the date of the crime because features such as hairstyles and facial hair are subject to change;
(C) The perpetrator may or may not be among those shown in the photographic lineup or physical lineup;
(D) When a neutral independent administrator is conducting the photographic lineup or physical lineup, the administrator is not aware of whether the suspect is included in such photographic lineup or physical lineup; and
(E) Regardless of whether an identification is made, law enforcement will continue to investigate the crime; and(3) When conducting a photographic lineup or physical lineup, the administrator should preserve the outcome of the procedure by documenting any identification or nonidentification result obtained from a witness. All witness responses to the photographic lineup or physical lineup participants should be documented using the witness´s own words, either in writing or with an audio or video recording.
State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield is the author of this welcome piece of legislation, and has made significant progress in bringing the interested parties together to move it through the legislative process over the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officials continue to resist the resolution, despite the systemic wrongful conviction problem that continues to plague the Georgia criminal justice system.[Terry Norris, executive vice president of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association] told Committee Members that while the resolution is not legally binding, he still feels the State is dictating to law enforcement what to do.Given that law enforcement agencies across the state have failed to adopt well-settled best practices on their own and the substantial cost associated with failing to do so, a legislative mandate hardly seems out of line. We’ll be following this one closely.
All seven people exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing in Georgia were convicted in part based on eyewitness misidentifications. Read about their cases here.
Visit the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog.
Tags: Georgia, Eyewitness Identification, Eyewitness Misidentification
Georgia lawmakers approve compensation for Willie "Pete" Williams
Posted: March 5, 2008 1:15 pm
A key committee of the Georgia House of Representatives approved $1.2 million in compensation Monday for a man who spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Willie “Pete” Williams was exonerated last year after DNA tests proved that another man committed the 1985 rape of which Williams was convicted.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a resolution from Rep. Steve Tumlin (R-Marietta) that would give Williams a $100,000 lump sum payment and the balance of the $1.2 million in yearly payments over 20 years.The resolution must still be passed by the Georgia House and Senate. Georgia is one of 28 states that do not have a law compensating the exonerated for years they lost in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The Innocence Project has proposed that these states pass uniform bills rather than requiring each exoneree to go before the legislature for a “private bill” like this one.
Tumlin said the payments were meant to compensate Williams for the wages and other potential benefits he lost while serving time in prison.
Williams was 23 when he was convicted on eyewitness testimony from the victim of a Sandy Springs rape. Another man is now being prosecuted for the crime. "Losing your 20s, 30s and early 40s," Tumlin said. "Think about that if it were you."
Read the full story here. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 03/03/08)
Williams was represented by the Georgia Innocence Project; read more about his case here.
Read more about the Innocence Project’s recommended policy reforms to compensate the wrongfully convicted here.
Tags: Georgia, Willie Williams, Exoneree Compensation
The incalculable price of misidentification
Posted: March 5, 2008 2:05 pm
As Georgia lawmakers advance compensation for Willie “Pete” Williams, a column in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls for eyewitness identification reforms to prevent the injustice Williams suffered from happening to anyone else. The Innocence Project has worked with partners in Georgia (including the Georgia Innocence Project, which represented Williams) to support eyewitness identification reforms, but today’s column details the troubled road of this legislation and the compromises that appear necessary in order to get the bill passed.
You'd think that legislators would rush to find remedies that would at least lower the number of wrongful convictions.All seven Georgia exonerees were convicted based partly on eyewitness misidentification, read more about their cases here.
You'd be wrong. So far, little has come from the efforts of Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) to improve procedures for eyewitness identifications in criminal investigations. The bill is stuck, even though all seven of the exonerated were wrongly convicted largely on the basis of faulty eyewitness identifications.
Benfield first introduced a bill to standardize eyewitness IDs two years ago, but she met fierce resistance from police and prosecutors. When the legislation was assigned to a study committee, usually a sign that a bill has little support, Benfield faithfully shepherded it through, tacking and trimming to placate critics.
Now, the bill contains just two mandates: By 2009, Georgia law enforcement agencies must develop written procedures on how to administer eyewitness identifications; and by 2011, an officer trained in those best practices must supervise eyewitness ID procedures. But Benfield's bill is still stuck in the Rules Committee, where it awaits a date for a vote on the House floor.
Read the full column here. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 03/05/08)
Has your state enacted eyewitness reforms? Find out on our interactive map.
Tags: Georgia, Willie Williams, Exoneree Compensation
Georgia Supreme Court denies new trial for death row inmate
Posted: March 18, 2008 11:45 am
Troy Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for 17 years for the murder of an off-duty police officer that he has consistently maintained he didn’t commit. Since his conviction, seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified at his trial that he was the shooter have recanted their statements, saying they were unable to identify the shooter. Some of them have said they were pressured by police officers before the trial to identify Davis.
Yesterday, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against granting Davis a new trial based on the witness recantations and other evidence suggesting his innocence. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which granted him a stay last year when he came within 24 hours of execution, will make another ruling on his sentence, but said in a statement yesterday that it will not decide “in the near future” because of a de facto nationwide moratorium on executions.
Amnesty International has collected more than 60,000 signatures calling for a new trial for Davis. Visit Amnesty’s website today to send a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles about this case.
The Innocence Project is not involved in Davis’ case, but the 214 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence have shown that eyewitness identification evidence is often wrong. More than three-quarters of the 214 wrongful convictions were caused, at least in part, by misidentification. The Innocence Project is a member of the Innocence Network, which filed an amicus brief with the Georgia Supreme Court in Davis’ case. Download the brief here.
Read more about Davis’ case.
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Condemned cop killer denied new trial (03/18/08)
New York Times: Court rebuffs Georgian on death row (03/18/08)
Tags: Georgia, Eyewitness Misidentification
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
'Crisis' in Georgia as public defense budget is cut
Posted: June 11, 2008 1:44 pm
The abrupt decision by Georgia officials to close a 16-lawyer Atlanta public defense office this month is causing great concern in the state’s legal community. A chief judge said the plan is irresponsible and could cause a legal crisis, and the Fulton County District Attorney expressed concern about the cuts.
The Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council announced on Friday that it planned to close the Fulton County Metro Conflict Defender Office on June 30. The office takes on defendants when there are conflicts of interest with other public defenders, a common situation when multiple defendants are charged in a single crime. The council has another scheduled hearing next week where it will readdress the issue.
"This action by the state is irresponsible — any change in the current system should be carefully planned and coordinated so that there is no break in indigent defense representation," Doris Downs, chief judge of Fulton Superior Court, said in a statement on Monday.Underfunded and overburdened public defenders are a major cause of wrongful convictions. Read more about bad lawyering here and review examples of cases in which inadequate defense led to a wrongful conviction.
Read the full story here. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 06/10/08)
Tags: Georgia, Bad Lawyering
Posted: September 5, 2008 3:07 pm
New projects and investigations launched this week by innocence organizations, law schools, prosecutors and attorneys general across the country show the momentum nationwide to overturn wrongful convictions and address the root causes of wrongful conviction to prevent future injustice. Here’s this week’s roundup:
Questions were raised about standards of DNA collection and preservation in Massachusetts after improper procedures were revealed in a high-profile case. Mass. is one of 25 states without a DNA preservation law.
The Mississippi Attorney General said this week that the state is underfunding DNA tests and DNA collection and a new task force is examining the state problem.
San Jose opened California’s largest crime lab, training began in Maryland before a new law expanding the state’s database took effect and cutbacks in Georgia led to furloughs for prosecutors and could cause lab closings.
The Midwest Innocence Project this week launched an investigation into a 1988 fire that killed six Kansas City firemen and led to the conviction of five people who say they’re innocent. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a first-of-its-kind panel dedicated to investigating cases of possible wrongful conviction, finished reviewing its first case, deciding that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the conviction of Henry A. Reeves. And Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins asked county officials to allow filming in his offices in coming months for a Discovery Channel documentary.
Some of the best policy analysis and research to help improve our criminal justice system comes, of course, from our nation’s law schools – and now many of those schools have blogs. Marquette University Law School launched a new faculty law blog, and a post by Keith Sharfman finds that “blogging’s potential as a medium for serious legal discourse can no longer be doubted.”
A column on Law.com asks: “Is the future of legal scholarship in the blogosphere?”
Here at the Innocence Project, we read law school blogs everyday. Among our favorites are Crim Prof Blog and Evidence Prof Blog
New York University Law School has formed a new Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which will seek to promote “good government practices in criminal matters.”
Tags: California, North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Innocence Commissions, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing, DNA Databases
Supreme Court expected to act quickly on Davis case
Posted: September 29, 2008 5:35 pm
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay less than two hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed in Georgia for a murder he says he didn’t commit. The justices issued the stay so they would have time to decide whether there is sufficient doubt about Davis’ guilt to necessitate further review. The Georgia Supreme Court declined to grant Davis a new hearing, citing a precedent saying that it would only grant a new trial if there was proof, with “no doubt of any kind,” that a witness’ trial testimony was “the purest fabrication.” Davis’ attorneys say that sets the bar too high. A decision is expected from the high court by Oct. 6.
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today examines the court’s motivation for granting a stay in the Davis case, and the effect the final decision could have on future cases.Read more about Davis’ case here.
With the exonerations of inmates nationwide based on DNA evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court is giving more careful scrutiny to innocence claims, said (Indiana University law professor Joseph) Hoffman, a death penalty expert.
“This is the kind of case that has the court on edge right now,” he said. “So it’s not completely surprising that out of all the death cases that come before it this would be the one granted a stay.”
Ezekiel Edwards, an attorney with the Innocence Project in New York, called the state Supreme Court’s decision troubling.
“It sets a terrible precedent for innocent people who are incarcerated and where there isn’t DNA evidence but where there may be one or multiple recanting witnesses who for a whole bevy of reasons are saying their original testimony was false,” he said. “In most recantation cases, you could never meet the standard they’ve set.”
Read the full story here. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 09/29/08)
Tags: Georgia, Death Penalty
Supreme Court quiet so far on Troy Davis case
Posted: October 7, 2008 2:45 pm
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will meet on Friday to discuss the fate of Troy Davis, who has been on Georgia’s death row since 1989 for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Although some observers had expected the justices to discuss the case yesterday, they issued orders in other cases and stayed mum on the Davis case. The court is considering whether Davis deserves a hearing based on new evidence of his innocence, or if Georgia can execute him. The Supreme Court issued a stay just two hours before Davis’ scheduled execution on Sept. 23.
“It’s obviously a very important case and the justices are still considering it,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said. “Maybe the justices are split about it and want more time to consider it.”Read more about Davis’ case here.
Read the full story here. (Associated Press, 10/6/08)
Tags: Georgia, Eyewitness Misidentification, Death Penalty
Troy Davis Case Back in Court
Posted: December 9, 2008 2:13 pm
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today in the case of Troy Davis, who has been on Georgia’s death row for nearly two decades for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit. Davis has come within hours of execution three times before receiving a stay.
The federal appeals court today will hear arguments on Davis’ request for a new trial based on evidence of his innocence developed since his conviction.Eyewitness identification testimony was the key evidence against Davis at trial, and this type of evidence has been shown to contribute to wrongful convictions. In this case, the Innocence Project and Innocence Network together filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the 11th Circuit Court pointing to the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
Now Davis’ lawyers insist a new trial is needed because seven of nine witnesses have either recanted or are now uncertain of their testimony about MacPhail’s August 1989 murder in a Savannah Burger King parking lot. The lawyers have produced affidavits from witnesses who say they are no longer sure of what they saw that morning or say their testimony was a lie.
Read today’s full story here. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/09/08)
Georgia Improves Identification Training
Posted: January 21, 2009 1:49 pm
The group that oversees law enforcement training in Georgia has said it will significantly increase its courses for officers on eyewitness identification procedures this year.
Departments across the state have been working to improve identification procedures since a House of Representatives study committee found a lack of statewide standards. Rep. Stephanie Stuckley Benfield, a sponsor of identification reform efforts, said training is the key to improvement and that law enforcement agencies have been receptive.
"So much of this comes down to training," said the DeKalb County Democrat. "If you've got good training, then you're less likely to make mistakes."
…Keith Howard supervises the criminal investigations section of the Georgia Police Academy and helped expand the course for Georgia POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training Council)….
The training outlines correct preparation for the lineup when choosing participants or their photographs, the best practices for presenting the lineup and preserving the results through good documentation of what the witness intended.
A major point that both Rep. Benfield and Innocence Project officials have pushed for is a "blind administrator" to conduct the lineups. That's a police officer who has no knowledge of the investigation and could not influence a victim or eyewitness to select a suspect.
"You don't want to indicate the suspect to the witness," Chief Parker said. "They may feel undue pressure to identify the person."
Read the full story here. (01/19/08)A 2007 study by the Georgia Innocence Project found that 82% of Georgia law enforcement agencies had no policies in place for eyewitness identification procedures. Read more and download training materials at the POST website.
Tags: Georgia, Eyewitness Identification
Uneven Compensation Leaves the Exonerated in Limbo
Posted: July 22, 2009 6:00 pm
As of today, 240 people have been exonerated by DNA testing in 34 states. They come from all walks of life and their experiences after exoneration are as diverse as they are. But they all share a common experience – they served years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Rebuilding a life after exoneration is not easy, and the level of support offered to the exonerated varies greatly from state to state – and even sometimes within states.
Twenty-seven states offer some compensation to the exonerated after their release, but the compensation laws in these vary widely. Click here to find your state on our interactive map.
Even within some states, exonerees’ experiences after exoneration – and the services offered by the state – can take different paths. Georgia is one of the 23 states without a statewide compensation law, but several exonerees have been awarded compensation by the legislature in individual bills. As the Associated Press reported recently, however, Georgia exonerees Samuel Scott and Douglas Echols never received any compensation from the state for the injustice they suffered.
Seven years after DNA evidence exonerated Echols and Scott, neither has received a cent from the state of Georgia. Their appeal was doomed by the influential district attorney of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" fame who locked them both away in 1987 and is still not convinced they're innocent.Read more about the Innocence Project’s efforts to seek exoneree compensation in states across the country.
…"We're like ghosts," Scott said recently. "They want to pretend we don't exist."
…Like Echols and like most ex-cons, he's struggled to find steady work since he got out. He started a small landscaping business but has few customers these days. He had a line on a job waxing and cleaning floors that he says would have paid about $15 an hour, but when the company discovered he had a criminal record, it was a no go. He is two months behind on his mortgage.
Read the full story here. (Associated Press, 7/18/09)
Tags: Georgia, Douglas Echols, Samuel Scott, Exoneree Compensation
Friday Roundup: False Confessions, DNA Access, Compensation
Posted: February 24, 2012 5:15 pm
Tags: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky
Atlanta Wrongfully Incarcerates Woman Who Shares the Same Name as the Suspect
Posted: July 5, 2012 5:45 pm
Teresa Culpepper was arrested and spent nearly two months in jail for a crime allegedly committed by a woman with the same name. Although she didn’t fit the description besides her name, Culpepper would not be released until the victim came forward to testify that she was not the assailant. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Aimee Maxwell, executive director of the Georgia Innocence Project, said arrests based on mistaken identities are common. “I think it’s a rare occurrence when people find out about it,” she said.
As in Culpepper’s case, mistaken arrests usually can be traced to similar names.
Innocence Project client James Curtis Giles was wrongfully imprisoned in Texas for 10 years and spent 14 years as a registered sex offender on parole because he shared the same name as the real perpetrator—James Earl Giles. Giles the assailant was considerably younger and lived on the other side of town. James Curtis Giles was exonerated by DNA testing in 2007.
Read the full article about the case.
Remembering Troy Davis
Posted: September 24, 2012 5:00 pm
One year after the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis for a 1989 murder that he maintained he didn’t commit, Davis’ sister vows to abolish the death penalty.
Speaking to the Guardian, Kimberly Davis said that her family was still determined to clear his name. Seven of the nine witnesses who identified Davis as the shooter have recanted their testimony.
"They insisted on executing an innocent man despite so much doubt around the case. If those seven witnesses were credible enough to put my brother on death row, then why weren't they credible when they recanted?" Davis said.
"My brother was murdered by the state of Georgia. For the Troy Davises who came before him, and the Troy Davises who will come after him, we want to stop the killing of innocent men," she said.
Shortly before Davis’ death, the Innocence Project sent a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Troy Davis’ death sentence to life due to serious questions about his guilt. A group of organizations and activists delivered a petition with more than 660,000 signatures calling on the Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop Davis’ execution. In a three to two vote, the members of the Board ultimately rejected the clemency bid.
Read the full article.
Read more about Troy Davis execution.
Read more about the role of eyewitness misidentification in Troy Davis’ questionable conviction.
Tags: Georgia, Troy Davis
Innocence Network Week in Review: December 7, 2012
Posted: December 7, 2012 4:00 pm
Tags: California, Georgia, Illinois
African American Wrongful Convictions Throughout History
Posted: February 28, 2013 4:35 pm
Tags: Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Mississippi, Tennessee, Racial Bias