Justice: Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted




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From the Editor

Innocents Death Row Watch



Free at Last


Heroes at the Bar

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Welcome to Archived Volume 2 Issue 8
Special Edition

About this special edition...
This special edition of Justice Denied Magazine was paid for by a generous grant from the G.J. Aigner Foundation, located in Chicago, Illinois.

JD was started in February of 1999. The circulation is probably large, but mostly online, with only a small number of hard copy subscribers. To reach more people with our urgent message, we are seeking to increase hard copy circulation. Selected people are receiving this one-time only special edition copy of JD courtesy of the G.J. Aigner Foundation, with the goal of increasing our circultation. We hope you will pick up your checkbook now and subscribe for yourself, and others, or make a donation.

Art from the Inside

Table of Contents:

In this edition of Justice: Denied Magazine:

A Letter from the Editor

Why Justice: Denied is Important: A Historical Perspective

Prosecute the Prosecutors Who Wrongly Convicted Says Pauley

The Felito Feliz Mendoza Story

Southern Injustice

Art by James Anderson

The Christopher Dunn Story

The Michael Pardue Story

The William Thomas Zeigler Story

Polygraphs...A Danger to Innocent People?

Prison by the Senses

The Darlie Routier Story

The Position of J:D on the Death Penalty

A Poem from the Inside

The Anthony Graves Story

The Steven Joseph Schmitt Story

The Linda Keene Story

Free at Last, A.B. Butler, Jr., Michael Pardue and Christopher Ochoa

The Freddie Eugene Casey Story

Movie Review...Brokedown Palace

Jeff Adachi The Lifer and the Lawyer Who Won't Quit.

Eyewitness Identification...Hindrance to Justice?

The Debra Milke Story

The Thomas Harris Story

SnapShots -- Is There a Moratorium in Maryland's Future?

The Exonerated Seek Safeguards Against Injustice

Justice is Tried and Executed in Virginia's Eagerness to Win

New Jersey to offer free DNA testing

Majority favors moratorium on executions

Europeans decry use of death penalty in the United States

DNA testing FINALLY frees Larry Youngblood.

Our personal responsibility:
Anger and Righting Wrongs

Dear Readers,

In an eerie deja vu that dates back to the third issue of Justice: Denied Magazine, when Kosovo was bombed, following an earlier bombing of Iraq, and the Y2K "crisis" was moving to center stage in the country's nervousness. With slight changes, this editorial repeats the one in our third on-line issue (www.justicedenied.org) because our staff felt it was the most appropriate.

International and national tensions are high as one story after another hits the news upon the heels of the terrorism attacks this country has suffered. What Y2K did not do, the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a seemingly thwarted attack crashing in Pennsylvania, have done. Gas prices shot up, people are stocking their shelves, airlines are beleaguered, and there is an ambivalent mood of war.

The one thing it's all about is justice. This is a magazine for the wrongly convicted, and yet we know full well that there are those who are rightly convicted, whether for treason, burglary, or inidividual murder. What we must not lose is our sense of what is just in all these situations.

It may be auspicious or not that we are publishing our debut hard copy issue in this troubled time. Certainly it is difficult to focus on some wrongly convicted people when thousands of victims of real murder lie under rubble and cannot even be identified. However, an injustice is an injustice, and it's our duty as people of conscience to occupy ourselves with them. At this writing, the terrorist acts have even affected the wrongly convicted because thousands of documents regarding their cases went up in smoke, prompting the courts to issue extensions.

Our prisons bulge with over 1.9 million people, most of them non-violent. We live in the times we have created. Injustice is rampant and mercy is scarce, yet only our efforts to keep virtue alive holds hope for any of us. People are seeing for themselves that neither police brutality nor imprisonment of the innocent are rare events, but are almost a common part of being an American. Our anger grows. As has been said of another era, we live in "the best of times and the worst of times."

Our troubles were not born ex-nihilo (out of nothing), but are part of the whole fabric which is us, whether we caused it, perpetrate or tolerate it. The single realization that we are a part of any wrong we may suffer could do much to dispel our sense of self-pity when we face injustice in our own lives. Once we do that, we can begin to understand that we must be part of the solution in bringing justice to every part of our lives and that of others.

Among the many national and international tensions and fears, the concern of J ustice Denied zeroes in on injustice, for just as the homeless, the poor or victims of racism symbolize what is wrong for some Americans, for us, the innocent imprisoned are a distressing indicator of all that is wrong with our "justice" system.

The "worst" of our era is that we see injustice done by Americans to Americans (and others) in unprecedented numbers. We have seemingly become callous people, but fortunately that is only part of the picture. The "best"of our times is that an authentic movement is emerging from the shapeless suffering of thousands no longer willing to share in the debasement of their fellow humans. As in all movements, leaders are emerging to guide the angers of the restless to positive ends.

Defending the Indefensible

When the system's elite close ranks and protect their own in response to outrage over injustices, anger grows. Where can we find justice if our own systems and people deny it? We don't trust our criminal justice system with great reason. Among many other wrongs, it has killed innocent people, imprisons the non-violent and has mocked the very concept of justice. We want our criminal justice system to serve us with honor and honesty. We want to see chiefs of police, prosecutors and others who have participated in or allowed wrongs to be called to account. Most of all, we want them to honor justice over the hollow victories of convictions gotten at any cost. (One DA is reputed to have worn a T-Shirt saying, "Convicting the guilty is not the challenge, convicting the innocent is.") We must oppose these evils with everything we have, for each person reading this could very well be the next target.

You will read stories here of people who were as ordinary or extraordinary as you may be, and yet that person became a victim of the justice system. It is completely true that YOU could be next. We've seen it happen.

Do any of us believe that just because we ask the system to act with honor that it will? Unlikely. Fortunately, we still are not completely dependent on the good will of a system unwilling to reform itself. We can litigate. Whether or not an innocent person wins redress from the courts, it is crucial that lawsuits be pressed. The message will survive intact: we are battering down the gates of the elites' immunity.

What positive ends could there be to restless anger? If not channeled, anger will increase grief, but if it is righteous and enlightened by constructive plans to create more justice for everyone, it can fuel social changes. Those who avert their eyes from wrongs to others partake in those wrongs. If, however, we have "enlightened selfishness," we will understand that to free others from wrongs is to guarantee mercy and justice for ourselves. Any injustice diminishes us all. We call to you to change your corner of the world by speaking out, by taking a stand, or by supporting those who are making a difference. You and I have a personal, individual obligation to do what is right. We cannot wash our hands of injustice to others and count ourselves moral or just. Vote your conscience with your time and money. This very day an innocent person needs you to help him or her to freedom. There is a Movement against injustice. Be counted.

Stand with us against ALL injustice.

Clara A. Thomas Boggs
Chief Editor and Producer of Justice: Denied Magazine (www.justicedenied.org)

The Dark Ride

Edited for Anthony Mungin by JD Staff

Struggling against the intoxicating rage
The feud contaminated my blood;
Eye impregnated with predatory gaze,
The effects of solitary are, alas, to bud.

Evil finds lodging in the pessimist
Misery sought to infect the meek;
Petition the Mediator to redeem the notorious,
To regurgitate its malicious deceit.

Haunts of violence fill the atmosphere
While the storm of uncertainty threatens the sane;
Yet the battle isn't against my fellow prisoner here,
It's against barbaric justice and the unethical political game.

My shoulders cringe from the weight of the death sentence,
This soul of mine awaits for hope abroad; awaits hope
May thine heart convince thee I'm neither killer nor menace,
But a career stepping-stone for a political god.

Anthony Mungin

A.B. Butler, Jr. No one listened to A. B. Butler Jr. for 16 long years. Thanks to DNA, his innocence is now proved.

Michael Pardue Free, Free, Free at Last

Free at Last, Christopher Ochoa

Free, Free, Free at Last

In our on-line feature article about Michael Pardue, we asked the rhetorical question, "How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?" We thought the answer was "blowing in the wind," but now the state of Alabama has finally given definition to that elusive question: it's twenty-eight years; it is 330 months; it is 10330 days.

In February of 2001 Michael Rene Pardue finally became a free man. Pause for just a moment and think, really think, about TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS. In that time we all learned to walk, talk, and eat with utensils. Most of us completed grade school, high school, under graduate school, grad school, got married, had children, and moved upward in our chosen professions. It's almost a lifetime.

On February 16 at 5:00 p.m. Michael Rene Pardue finally walked out of prison -- free at last to look at the sky without razor wire in his view and handcuffs on his wrists.

The staff at Justice: Denied takes great delight in wishing Michael well as he embarks on this new phase of his journey, with his wife Becky at his side. It has been a long, arduous battle fraught with many obstacles. Michael and Becky overcame them one by one, united by love and a quest for justice. In this world of instant gratification, let Michael remind us how to keep our "eyes on the prize." Let him inspire us to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even though we may feel like giving up. Let his journey prove to us that dreams do come true, even against all odds.

However, as we share in this joyful celebration, let us not forget that twenty-eight years is a very, very long time. The face of the world has changed in three decades but one fact remains constant -- Michael was innocent when he walked into prison and he was innocent as he walked out. More information on Michael's remarkable story can be found at: www.MichaelPardue.com.

When Michael went into prison at the tender age of seventeen:

a. Computers were the size of a small house. The term "PC" didn't exist.
b. Watergate was the name of an expensive and relatively unknown hotel in Washington DC
c. US troops still occupied Vietnam.
d. Bill and Hillary were going steady.
e. Calculators were about to hit the market.
f. Harry Truman was still alive.
g. DNA was unheard of.
h. Atari introduced an innovative game called "Pong" that could be played on a television set.
i. Minimum wage was $1.75
j. AIDS was an unknown virus.

Twenty-eight years is indeed a very long time.

Free at last: Christopher Ochoa

by William Kreuter, J:D Staff

Twelve years after Texas authorities used the threat of execution to coerce a false confession from Christopher Ochoa, and five years after another man first wrote a letter to then-Texas Governor Bush confessing his guilt and exonerating Ochoa and co-defendant Richard Danziger, Ochoa was ordered released on January 16.

While authorities said it was "a tragic tale of the criminal justice process gone awry," the media have taken little note of this notorious example of prosecutorial abuse and the fact that Bush pays little attention to details made available to him, even when this inattention punishes innocent people. Last year it was revealed by one investigative reporter that Bush, who had claimed to thoroughly review every clemency petition sent to him by prisoners about to be executed and to be convinced of the guilt of each, actually spent no more than fifteen minutes on the voluminous case files. At least 5% of the 152 prisoners whose execution Bush approved may well have been innocent. Christopher Ochoa, 34, said he confessed to the rape-murder of an Austin woman in 1988 after a homicide detective browbeat him for hours, threatening him with the death penalty. Ochoa pleaded guilty in return for a life sentence and implicated the supposed accomplice, Richard Danziger, who was convicted based on Ochoa's testimony and sentenced to 99 years.

In the January 16 proceeding in Austin, the judge vacated Ochoa's guilty plea at the request of prosecutors, saying Ochoa "has suffered a miscarriage of justice." Prosecutors said they also will seek the release of Danziger, now 30, for whom the case has had an irreversibly tragic result. In the early 1990s, Danziger was assaulted by a fellow inmate and left permanently mentally disabled, authorities said. He is confined to a prison hospital. Prosecutors said they will ask a judge to release Danziger after arrangements have been made for him to reside in a private assisted-living facility.

Prosecutors said recent DNA tests have ruled out Ochoa and Danziger as sources of semen found in Nancy DePriest, a 20-year-old Pizza Hut employee who was slain at her workplace during a robbery. They said DNA tests have implicated the current suspect, Achim Josef Marino, 41, who is serving life in prison for other crimes.

In a series of letters sent to Bush and other officials between 1996 and 1998, Marino, who is a stranger to Ochoa and Danziger, confessed in detail to the killing. Bush ignored the letters.

Sources: The Washington Post and Associated Press

JEFF ADACHI: The Lifer and the Lawyer Who Won't Quit

By Linda Cordero, JD Guest Contributor

After 10 years behind bars, J.J. Tennison still maintains his innocence, and his public defender is still fighting for him.

In August 1989, Roderick Shannon was beaten and killed in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood. The attack claimed two lives and sent nine others to the hospital with gunshot wounds. In late 1990, two young men were convicted of the killing and sentenced to 25 to life. Ten years later, both men maintain their innocence.

At trial, the prosecution relied extensively on the ever-evolving testimony of two young thieves in obtaining convictions. Jeff Adachi, a new public defender with only three years experience, was assigned to represent J.J. Tennison. He found a case riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and stories that often made no sense. Believing the prosecution had a flimsy case, the young attorney didn't mount a major-league defense. He figured his client would walk. The jury ruling finding J.J. Tennison guilty stunned his legal team.

When a client is found guilty, the public defender nearly always washes his or her hands of the matter, strolling off as the former client is led away. Appeals are left to state-paid lawyers or private counsel. Not so here, where Jeff Adachi immediately met with his investigator and committed to start over, excavate fresh evidence and reconstruct the case.

A month later, San Francisco police officers picked up Lovinsky Ricard, Jr. on a routine drug warrant. Ricard confessed to the killing of Shannon, just like in the movies. However, a judge found the confession unreliable and refused Tennison's request for a new trial. Three years later, as the investigation continued, an eyewitness stepped forward with a detailed version of the killing, confirming that the convicted men had no part in it. Surely Tennison could go free, now. Wrong again -- the district attorney didn't feel the witness' narrative was strong enough to reopen the case.

Adachi states that he will never, ever, give up on his client. "I don't care what it takes. I could be 80 years old. I'll never give up."

Over the last decade, four courts have vetoed Tennison's bid for a new trial. Last month, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the highest-ranking federal court in the western United States, overturned the ruling of the trial court, instructing them to review J.J. Tennison's situation. It's not freedom, nor necessarily a new trial. It does require the trial court to examine the new eyewitness' sworn statement and Ricard's confession to determine whether a retrial should be ordered.

Dedication, persistence and responsibility to clients above and beyond the "call of duty," of which this case is but one example, have earned Jeff Adachi my respect and admiration, and my nomination as a Hero at the Bar.

Is there a Moratorium in Maryland's Future?

by Stormy Thoming-Gale, J:D Staff

Maryland lawmakers were considering a moratorium as the legislative session came to a close. The same bill passed the House of Delegates. Senate conservatives threatened a filibuster, and lawmakers adjourned without voting on the plan to halt executions until a University of Maryland criminologist can complete a search for evidence of racial bias in the system that places people on Maryland's death row. Though legislators failed to act, the governor can halt executions until review is done.

Governor Parris N. Glendening was the one who initiated the death penalty study and he's the one who signs off on all executions. The governor has acknowledged the possibility that racial bias may be the reason African-Americans are over represented on death row. There are other problems as well; one of the four men who face possible execution this year was allowed to defend himself at trial. Another had a lawyer who did not sufficiently raise questions about his mental stability -- a mitigating factor that could have kept him off death row.

Kirk Bloodsworth was twice convicted of capital murder in Maryland courts before a DNA test showed he could not have been guilty. Eugene Colvinel came within a week of execution last year, even though no physical evidence connected him with the murder for which he was convicted. The governor intervened to spare his life after the courts failed to do so.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she supports a proposed state moratorium on the death penalty. She cited that one reason for her support is that she has found that accused murderers with good lawyers do not get the death penalty. Ms. Ginsburg also criticized the amount of money spent to defend indigent defendants.

Ms. Ginsburg said in a lecture that she has yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.

A few days after the state's legislature failed to vote on the moratorium, the Maryland Court of Appeals put a temporary halt on executions. With four executions possibly scheduled for this summer, the court declined to expedite an appeal by one of the death row inmates, who argues that a recent Supreme Court opinion renders the Maryland death penalty unconstitutional. By refusing to speed the matter along, the court most likely ensured that oral arguments will not take place until the fall. The decision indefinitely postponed at least two executions that could have been scheduled this summer.

Sources: The Associated Press, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun

The Exonerated Seek Safeguards Against Injustice

by Richard Alevizos, J:D Staff

Michael Graham, who spent fourteen years of his life in a prison cell on death row due to the vagaries of a justice system gone wrong, had his chance to speak out against the very system that wrongfully incarcerated him. In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that focused on a provision of the Innocence Protection Act that would impose mandatory standards for lawyers appointed to capital cases and withhold federal prison funds from states that fail to meet those standards, Michael Graham and others testified. Mr. Graham, a Roanoke roofer, who spent those years on death row before he was released last year, testified in favor of sweeping reforms meant to safeguard innocent people from being wrongfully executed.

Wrongful execution has already been committed and now as ever needs to stop. Mr. Graham testified that "During my 14 wasted years on death row, I always hoped that the nightmare would count for something, that's why I am here today."

Mr. Graham, convicted for the 1986 slayings of an elderly couple in Louisiana and later exonerated, let the Committee know that his lawyers had little criminal trial experience and one in particular had only recently graduated from law school. Hardly the lawyers to have represent you in a capital punishment case for starters and hardly the punishment to be meted out in a country which claims to have no human or civil rights abuses occurring within its own borders.

It is just lucky for Mr. Graham that last December some attorneys working for free took up his case and proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that key witnesses had lied and that the prosecutor had deliberately withheld evidence. After the case was dismissed against him, Mr. Graham wasn't even given enough money to catch a bus back to his hometown. Hardly the compensation one should receive for having been wrongfully convicted by a justice system gone wrong and a prosecutor who will never go to jail for committing what should be considered felony fraud and misrepresentation.

"Someone on trial for their life deserves a fair trial and a competent defense attorney," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is the committee's chairman and the bill's chief sponsor. He further added; "We're talking about the ultimate penalty that can be imposed."

At a time when a nation wide, not to mention a world wide, debate is taking place, it can only be hoped that this hearing will produce a bill which will produce a law that will put fairness back into the justice system. Maybe then not only rich people will be able to afford proper representation and maybe then can we actually see who is guilty and who is innocent. It goes without saying that there is no fairness in the capital punishment system. In the last 24 years more than 90 people in 22 states have been released from death row because of concerns that they were wrongfully convicted.

Four of those men made it to the Capitol for this hearing, including Earl Washington, the only prisoner ever to be exonerated from Virginia's death row. Also present was the first person ever to be freed because of DNA testing. Kirk Bloodsworth, a waterman from Maryland was freed in 1993 after spending 9 years in prison after wrongfully being convicted of a 1984 rape and murder of a 9 year old girl in Baltimore County. Due to these lapses in the law Virginia and Maryland have begun studying the fairness of their processes and Illinois has completely halted all executions.

There is widespread bipartisan support for giving convicted felons access to DNA testing. With this out of the way, some politicians feel the debate can then focus on the issue of legal counsel in capital cases. "Let's remedy some of the injustices and do it right away," said Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). "We can not waste another day in providing that kind of resource."

Even though senators like Orrin Hatch feel access to DNA is important, the hearing focused on attorney competence. There is testimony showing that there are inmates on death rows that were represented by attorneys who fell asleep or were drunk during trial or they simply lacked the experience or resources to try a time consuming criminal case. Why these attorneys would be considered acceptable and by what standards is where the system has gone wrong. And oft is the time when such attorneys themselves believe their client is guilty, thus compromising the defendant's representation and ability to obtain a fair trial.

The bill, if made into a law, would create a national commission of prosecutors, judges and lawyers that would devise a standard to ensure proper, just and good legal services to all. It would take away authority from state judges (often criminally negligent themselves) to appoint defense lawyers in capital cases. This authority would be given to an independent authority, which could appoint proper representation for those in need. The fact that Graham and three other former death row inmates attended the hearing to provide their testimony gives proof that changes need to be made. And just to make sure the wrong person isn't wrongfully executed, all death sentences should be postponed until all cases have been reviewed and all possible DNA testing has been done to serve the needs of justice.

Source: The Washington Post

Justice is tried and executed in Virginia's eagerness to win

Edited by Barbara Jean McAtlin, J:D Staff

Once again, the Virginia attorney general's office has won another battle against its old foe, Justice. A Commonwealth court recently denied petitions that had been filed by Centurion Ministries and a number of prominent newspapers requesting a more modern form of DNA testing on the evidence from the Roger Keith Coleman case. Although DNA testing had been done in the Coleman case, the more modern DNA testing the groups had asked for was unavailable at the time of his trial. The groups had asked for the testing to help them try to answer some of the remaining questions surrounding the case and Roger Keith Coleman's rather questionable 1992 execution. Coleman had been convicted of the rape and murder of his sister-in-law. There was no bona fide reason for the court to disallow the testing, but Attorney General Mark Earley (who has since resigned to run for governor of Virginia) opposed the requests and said there was no legitimate controversy surrounding Mr. Coleman's guilt. He probably wouldn't be too surprised to find out that a number of Virginians actually do believe Roger Keith Coleman was innocent of the crime for which he was executed. Now, the question is whether or not the Commonwealth of Virginia will destroy the evidence to prevent the truth -- whatever it may be -- from ever coming out. The Commonwealth has proven time and again that it is more concerned with safeguarding itself from humiliation than from seeking out justice.

Although the attorney general's office is right to stand by the convictions they secure, their eagerness in protecting their convictions at any cost borders on fanatical. They should be more interested in justice and fairness -- even if it means they will have "lost" a case. The resistance to DNA testing after-the-fact in the Coleman case does not conform to the duty of the attorney general's office to reveal the real truth -- or to acknowledge their mistakes when they do happen. At a hearing that was held earlier regarding the Coleman DNA testing, an attorney for the office said, "It would be shouted from the rooftops that the Commonwealth of Virginia executed an innocent man" if the tests were to prove that the Commonwealth had done exactly that.

Not only is the attorney general's office balking at DNA testing in the Coleman case, they recently argued against DNA testing for Brian Lee Cherrix, a living death row inmate. Their thoughts were that there was nothing amiss with a murder trial in which the accused -- unknowingly -- was "defended" by the victim's former lawyer. The office also vigorously fights against any measures that would address the problems that allow cases such as this. This dangerous combination of win at any cost and opposition to fairness means that innocent people are trapped in a nightmare created by the Commonwealth while dangerous, murdering criminals roam free with impunity.

Source: The Washington Post

New Jersey to offer free DNA testing

by Stormy Thoming-Gale, J:D Staff

Starting soon, Attorney General John Farmer Jr. will begin assigning a team of lawyers to review applications from defendants who want DNA testing. The team will then identify cases in which evidence has been properly preserved. The State Police would then analyze the DNA samples or it would be done by private laboratories at state expense. If the results exonerate the inmate, the state would join defense counsel in seeking to overturn the conviction. This project is being called, "The Truth Project."

The Truth Project is one of the first state programs of its kind and one of the most extensive, according to the National Association of Attorneys General. Ohio, the first to offer free DNA testing to prisoners, limits its program to death row inmates. Rhode Island recently announced an initiative similar to The Truth Project.

New Jersey's program will be much broader than Ohio's. Priority will be given to testing inmates still serving prison sentences but defendants on probation or parole will also be served under The Truth Project, as also would convicted sex offenders who are required to register under Megan's Law. The state estimates that more than 12,000 people convicted of homicide or sexual assault could apply for DNA testing. The actual number is expected to be much smaller and that even fewer cases will meet the criteria for DNA testing.

The total cost for the state to get the program up and running is estimated at about $300,000.

New Jersey has required convicted sex offenders to provide a blood sample since 1994, so their DNA can be analyzed and entered into a computerized database.

Last September, New Jersey law extended that to those convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault and other serious crimes. The database now contains DNA profiles on 5,920 offenders. According to the National Institute of Justice, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is expected to contain DNA profiles on more than 1 million convicted felons by 2005.

DNA evidence has been used to free people wrongfully convicted in New Jersey. McKinley Cromedy was released after 6 years in prison for rape that DNA tests show he did not commit. David Shepard was cleared in 1995 after serving more than 11 years.

DNA testing will not be granted simply because a prisoner requests it. The Truth Project will require that they pass a polygraph examination. There is no way to limit how the state uses a DNA sample so prisoners will have to weigh the consequences. For example, a DNA test might clear them of one crime but implicate them in another.

Source: Star Ledger

Majority favors moratorium on executions

by David C.N. Swanson, J:D Staff

Polls indicate that while a majority (albeit a slimmer majority than in recent years) of Americans still support the death penalty, a majority also favor calling a moratorium on executions until a justice system increasingly notorious for convicting the innocent can be studied and possibly improved. These two statistics suggest that most Americans believe the system can be satisfactorily improved and that a moratorium will not be followed by abolition.

Many anti-death penalty activists take a different view. If the injustices of the existing system are studied, they believe, only one result is possible, namely eliminating forever the possibility of executing the innocent by banning forever all executions. The moratorium movement, together with an increasing public awakening to the long-established fact that the death penalty does not deter crime, is seen by many as a step in the direction of abolition.

"We are well on our way to abolition," said Nadine Strossen, national president of the American Civil Liberties Union, at a four-day convention of anti-death penalty activists that was held at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco in November.

Ajamu Baraka, death penalty director for Amnesty International, agreed, saying, "People are no longer convinced of the moral rightness of the death penalty . . . as a consequence of our ability to bring to the American people, for the first time, the inner workings of this barbaric and backward practice."

Several speakers at the conference had been on death row. William Nieves, who was freed in October after six years on Pennsylvania's death row, said, "I promised a lot of the guys that I wouldn't forget about them, that I would come out and be their voice."

One of the conference participants was a pro-death penalty Republican, Illinois Gov. George Ryan. Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in his state last January after court rulings, new evidence and investigations by college students freed 13 death-row inmates.

Source: The San Francisco Examiner

Europeans decry use of death penalty in the United States

by Barbara Jean McAtlin, J:D Staff

At a recent Council of Europe meeting in Belgium, Brussels, the head of the Council criticized the use of capital punishment in the United States by saying the practice is useless against crime and an immoral choice that has landed innocent people on death row.

At the same time, at the first World Congress Against the Death Penalty Conference, the European Union's top foreign policy official, Chris Patten, condemned China's "Strike Hard" policy -- a campaign of executions by China -- by saying they were "so horrifying as to be almost unbelievable."

During the opening session of the three-day World Congress Against the Death Penalty conference, Walter Schwimmer, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, attacked the United States' death penalty policy. The conference, which was held in Strasbourg, France, opened immediately following the federal executions of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and convicted murderer and drug trafficker Juan Raul Garza.

"Do you know how many people in the United States are on death row?" Schwimmer asked the gathering. "No less than 3,700. Would anyone really believe that the death penalty is a tool to fight crime? If that would be true, the United States would be a country without crime and without violence."

Schwimmer spoke of the case of Joaquin Jose Martinez, a Spaniard who spent 37 months on Florida's death row for the murder of a drug trafficker and an exotic dancer. Martinez was acquitted after a retrial.

"What would have happened if the execution some years ago had not been postponed? Would anybody think this execution had been justice?" Schwimmer asked. During a recent visit to Europe, American President George W. Bush was beleaguered by intense protest from capital punishment opponents. Bush defended the United State's capital punishment policy by saying that "the death penalty is the will of the people in the United States."

European criticism also focused on China's anti-crime campaign dubbed "Hard Strike." China has sent hundreds of people to their deaths for crimes ranging from murder to drug dealing to embezzlement -- after parading them at public rallies. Critics worry that the Chinese courts are speeding judgments and condemning people to death using coerced confessions and unreliable evidence. The organizer of the conference, the Council of Europe, has 43-members and has gained a complete ban on, or a moratorium on, executions in its member states. Likewise, abolishing capital punishment is a requirement for membership in the 15-member European Union.

Source: New York Times

DNA testing FINALLY frees Larry Youngblood

by Stormy Thoming-Gale, J:D Staff

In 1983, Larry Youngblood was convicted of child molestation. The Pima County Attorney's Office said that Larry Youngblood was convicted based on the testimony of the victim, collaborating evidence and the technology available at the time.

The Arizona Court of Appeals briefly overturned Larry's conviction on grounds that due process was violated by the failure to safeguard evidence. Police failed to handle an important piece of evidence properly, making it impossible to determine whether semen was evident on Larry's clothing. In 1988, the Supreme Court reversed that ruling. In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court held that a defendant's rights were not denied unless the authorities were acting maliciously and knew the evidence could prove innocence.

Dr. Edward Blake, a forensic scientist with expertise in DNA, said that due to its recent ruling, the Supreme Court had established a flawed legal precedent that will lower the standards of evidence collection. The 1988 ruling undermined what were once progressive mandates that put the onus on the government to collect, maintain and properly preserve evidence. The Arizona Court of Appeals AGAIN set aside Larry Youngblood's conviction in 1990, arguing that the state's constitution was broader than the federal government's.

In 1993, the State Supreme Court AGAIN reinstated Mr. Youngblood's conviction.

Larry Youngblood returned to prison to serve out his sentence. Summer of 1999, Larry's lawyers requested new DNA tests that were not available in 1983. Although the test results took several months, they completely exonerated Larry Youngblood.

A representative from the Pima County Attorney's Office has publicly apologized for the wrongful conviction. To be sure, he told the public it was an accident and that the office "acted in good faith" but he said the office regretted what had happened and feels bad that Larry was incarcerated. Larry Youngblood, spent 17 years knowing he was innocent, never confessing, never taking a plea for less time and is understandably bitter.

Justice Denied wishes Mr. Youngblood the very best and hopes that the State of Arizona will take the initiative and offer compensation for the years lost by Mr. Youngblood.

Source: NY Times

Justice Denied

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