Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Report expected soon in investigation into potential wrongful execution

Hi all,

It’s worth noting that even if there has never been an official investigation proving an executed person’s innocence, there are a number of cases in which the person’s innocence is extremely likely. For example, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas, allegedly for setting a fire that killed a number of people in his building. The methods used in the arson investigation have been thoroughly discredited. According to modern techniques, it is nearly impossible that the fire was an arson at all. Philip Workman was recently executed in Tennessee for a crime he likely didn’t commit. And there are others,


Report expected soon in investigation into potential wrongful execution
Jefferson City News Tribune By JIM SALTER
June 19, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A two-year investigation into whether a St. Louis man was executed for a crime he didn't commit is expected to wrap up soon, the lead investigator in the case told The Associated Press Monday.
Rachel Smith, an assistant circuit attorney, is among three attorneys and two police investigators who have been looking into the case of Larry Griffin since July 2005.
Griffin was executed in 1995 for a fatal 1980 drive-by shooting. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce ordered the investigation after the victim's family, among others, came forward and expressed concern that Griffin was wrongfully convicted and executed.
Smith said she expects to turn in her report to Joyce by the end of this month. Unless Joyce orders further investigation, the report could be released to the public soon after that, Smith said.
Saul Green, a Detroit attorney who was among those pushing for Joyce to reopen the case, said the Missouri case is among four or five around the country in which investigators are looking into whether innocent people were executed.
“It would be a first, and that would be extremely significant,” Green said.
Griffin was 40 when he died by injection June 21, 1995, at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.
Griffin was convicted of killing Quinton Moss. Police said gunshots were fired from a moving car, striking Moss and another man. Moss was shot 13 times.
A witness gave police a description of the car and identified Griffin from police photos as the man in the front seat who fired the shots. Also, investigators determined Griffin had a motive: Moss had been arrested earlier in 1980, but never convicted, in connection with the death of Dennis Griffin, Larry's other brother.
In June 2005, Joyce was approached by a group that included Green, noted attorney Barry Scheck and Sam Gross, a University of Michigan professor who had looked into the case. All three raised questions about whether Griffin was the shooter, alleging police failed to contact some witnesses and that Griffin's trial defense was faulty.
Perhaps most compelling, Joyce said at the time, was the fact that Moss' only family questioned Griffin's guilt.
At the time of the execution, Griffin's lawyers said the sole eyewitness had recanted. They said another man claimed to have joined three others in killing Moss.
Asked by The Associated Press days before the execution if he killed Moss, Griffin declared, “I did not! If I'm going to be punished for something, it ought to be for something that I did. Innocence doesn't mean anything.”
Smith said her investigation involved nearly 80 interviews of people ranging from police to prostitutes who knew Griffin. She declined to discuss the findings but said she was confident in them.
“There's a degree in which you can be very comfortable with your results,” Smith said. “I wouldn't quantify it. But I will say we've done everything we think we can do to look at the issue and examine it thoroughly.”
Smith said the investigative team knows the potential impact of its findings.
“We are aware of the implications,” she said. “To us, it is an injustice when someone is convicted wrongly. The punishment magnifies the impact, absolutely.”

Actual Innocence awareness database

June 15, 2007

Author: Davies, Paul and Kuntz, Phil
Title: An Ex-Wife's Battle: Set Mr. Garcia Free
Citation: Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2007, at A1.
URL: http://tinyurl.com/ys2yd5

June 14, 2007

Title: Houston Won't Review Cases in Lab Inquiry
Citation: N.Y. Times, June 14, 2007, at A28.
URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/us/14houston.html

June 13, 2007

Author: Prottas, Jeffrey M. and Noble, Alice A.
Title: Use of Forensic DNA Evidence in Prosecutors' Offices
Citation: 35 J.L. Med. & Ethics 310 (2007).

June 12, 2007

Author: Christianson, Scott
Title: Public Detectives
Citation: N.Y. Times, June 3, 2007, Section 14, p. 13.

Author: Crouch, Stanley
Title: OpEd, In Juries We Trust
Citation: NY Daily News, May 27, 2007.
URL: http://tinyurl.com/yr5w7a

Author: Findley, Keith A.
Title: The Pedagogy of Innocence: Reflections on the Role of Innocence Projects in Clinical Legal Education
Citation: 13 Clinical L. Rev. 231 (2006).

Author: Salemme, Elisabeth
Title: Innocence Project Marks 15th Years
Citation: Time.com, June 5, 2007.
URL: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1628477,00.html

Author: Webster, Richard A.
Title: Life Sentence; Justice Elusive for Wrongfully Convicted Victims
Citation: New Orleans City Business.com, June 4, 2007.
URL: http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com/viewStory.cfm?recID=19189

June 11, 2007

Author: Findley, Keith A. and Pray, John A.
Title: Lessons from the Innocent
Citation: Wis. Acad. Rev., Fall 2001, at 33.
URL: http://law.wisc.edu/fjr/innocence/WisconsinAcademyReviewarticle.pdf

Author: Gohara, Miriam S.
Title: A Lie for A Lie: False Confessions and the Case for Reconsidering the Legality of Deceptive Interrogation Techniques
Citation: 33 Fordham Urb. L. J. 791 (2006).

Author: Gudjonsson, Gisli H.
Title: The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions: A Handbook
Citation: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.

Author: Inbau, Fred E., Reid, John E., Buckley, Joseph P., and Jayne, Brian C.
Title: Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 4th ed.
Citation: Jones and Bartlett, 2004.

Author: Kassin, Saul M.
Title: On the Psychology of False Confessions: Does Innocence Put Innocents at Risk?
Citation: 60 Am. Psychol. 215 (2005).

Author: Leo, Richard A., Drizin, Steven A., Neufeld, Peter J., Hall, Bradley R., and Vatner, Amy
Title: Bringing Reliability Back In: False Confessions and Legal Safeguards in the Twenty-First Century
Citation: 2006 Wis. L. Rev. 479 (2006).
URL: http://hosted.law.wisc.edu/lawreview/issues/2006-2/leo-drizin.pdf

Author: Protess, David and Warden, Rob
Title: A Promise of Justice
Citation: Hyperion, 1998.

Author: Wisconsin Criminal Justice Study Commission
Title: Study Suggests Causes of and Ways to Prevent False Confessions
Citation: 80 Wis. Lawyer 6 (May 2007).

June 7, 2007

Author: Lueck, Thomas J.
Title: From Database to Crime Scene: Network is Potent Police Weapon
Citation: N.Y. Times, June 7, 2007, at B1.
URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/07/nyregion/07real.html

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Wrongfully accused: back from brink of death row

Falling in love with the wrong guy landed Sunny Jacobs on death row, writes Liz Porter.

WHEN "nice Jewish girl" Sunny Jacobs met jailbird Jesse Tafero, she thought she had found a husband for herself — and a father for her six-year-old son. She could never have imagined that this "fascinating" relationship would lead her to a five-year stint on Florida's death row then a further 12 years of a "life" sentence for murder.

It was 1973 — the last days of the flower power era — and Sunny Jacobs' new man was softly spoken, gentle, and a practitioner of zen, meditation and painting. A wilfully naive "peace-and-love vegetarian", Ms Jacobs didn't recognise Tafero's charm as the manipulative criminal charisma of a man who had spent his formative years in a jail cell.

By the time he told her about his juvenile crime record and his seven-year jail sentence for robbery, her son was calling him Dad.

Since winning her release from jail in 1992, Ms Jacobs has toured the world speaking against capital punishment.

She has just published a memoir, Stolen Time, which follows her transformation from "flower child" to convicted killer and documents the long legal battle that led to her exoneration.

Her story, she says, is a cautionary tale of a woman who hitches her wagon to someone else's star.

"When I was in prison, most of the women there were in because of a man," she says.

She spent years in jail "kicking myself for being weak and stupid". "But I can't blame anyone. This was my journey — and it has led me to a place where I can do more good than I would have otherwise."

Within two years of meeting Tafero, she had a daughter by him. But her partner almost missed the birth because he'd been away on one of his many "work" trips, involving shady jobs and even shadier relationships.

"I didn't know, and I didn't want to know," recalls Ms Jacobs, who knew only that her man made money refurbishing guns — which had to be bought under her name, because he was still on parole.

The event that would ruin their lives took place in a rest area beside a busy Florida highway. Ms Jacobs, Tafero and the children were in a car with one of Tafero's new acquaintances — a man called Walter Rhodes.

The group were catching some sleep when they were woken by two policemen who did a routine check and spotted a gun on the floor of the car.

Tafero was soon armlocked by one officer, but Rhodes was still free. Ms Jacobs was holding her children as the second officer waved his gun at them, shouting.

All Ms Jacobs remembers is throwing her body over her children as a blast of gunfire erupted. "I looked up and Jesse was looking as shocked as I felt.

"The policemen were lying in a pool of blood — and you could smell the gunpowder."
Rhodes, gun in hand, was screaming at her to get herself and the children into the police car.

When they were all captured, and she was arrested, Jacobs was sure that her role would soon be downgraded to one of "accessory". Instead, Walter Rhodes, the only person at the scene whose hands tested positive for gun powder residue, told police that his passengers were the killers.

In exchange for two life sentences, he testified at both Ms Jacobs' and Tafero's trials.

A cell-mate of Ms Jacobs also testified to having heard her confess. The jury believed them. Both Tafero and Ms Jacobs were sentenced to death.

In August 1976, Ms Jacobs was ushered into her own private "death row" — a tiny bare cell in a special building on the edge of the Florida Correctional Institution for Women, set aside for the only woman in the state under sentence of death.

Within a year newspapers had published testimony from two of Rhodes' cell-mates, who made statements confirming that Rhodes had confessed to shooting the two policemen.
Ms Jacobs was also able to unearth Rhodes' lie-detector test report, which had been hidden from the defence during the trial. It contradicted Rhodes' trial testimony, indicating that he was unsure whether his co-defendants had done anything at all. Ms Jacobs won a hearing to assess this new evidence, but the judge ruled that it would have made no difference to her case.

Keeping herself sane by meditating, exercising, writing to Jesse and writing down notes that would eventually find their way into her book, Ms Jacobs also filed — and won — a lawsuit demanding visits, TV and walks, the same privileges as men on death row.

In 1981, her death sentence was reduced to life, on the grounds that the judge who imposed it had no reason to overrule the jury, who had only asked for a life sentence.

Finally, in late 1992, after a campaign led by a childhood friend of hers, the Court of Appeal overturned her conviction. Sunny Jacobs walked out of jail as a 45-year-old grandmother, her son Eric having married and fathered a child while she was incarcerated.

She is now working on a second book, which covers her time as "poster child" for the anti-death penalty movement and the story of her reunion with her children.

"They were so very damaged by what happened to me."

Stolen Time (Doubleday $32.95).

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Tombstone for an ‘innocent’

June 3, 2007


Tombstone for an ‘innocent’

By KHARI JOHNSON, Colorado Springs Gazette

On a hill overlooking CaƱon City and the oldest prison in Colorado, more
than 50 people gathered Saturday in Fremont Greenwood Cemetery to dedicate a
tombstone to Joseph “Joe” Arridy.

“They didn’t even spell his name right,” said Craig Severa, who organized
the event, referring to the original, rusted, license platelike placard
placed at Arridy’s grave.

Among the unkempt grass, lillies and cactus growing below the placards
marking prisoners’ graves, six plots away lie Frank Aguilar. Both men were
convicted and put to death for murdering a teenage girl, but advocates then
and now believe Arridy was innocent.

Saturday’s ceremony was the culmination of years of work by Severa, who paid
for the tombstone with donations from friends and organized the event with
the help of the Arc, an advocacy group for the mentally disabled who he
works for. The grounds around the new tombstone also served as a meeting
place for writers, lawyers, professionals and others touched by Arridy’s

Things began in 1936 when then-Pueblo Police Chief Arthur Grady received a
call from Cheyenne Sheriff George Carroll explaining that he had found his
killer. This confused Grady, who had already apprehended Aguilar and found
the murder weapon in his home. But Carroll was insistent. Carroll said
Arridy admitted that he was at the scene of the crime “with a man named

Arridy, mentally disabled and with the IQ of a child, was only 23 years old
when he was put to death. Those trying to clear his name believe he admitted
to the crime to appease the sheriff, unaware of what he was doing.

In an uncommon show of support, then-warden Roy Best and others in the legal
community who believed the man innocent fought all the way to the Colorado
Supreme Court to stay Arridy’s execution. However, they were unsuccessful
and on Jan. 6, 1939, Arridy was torn from his toys and brought to the gas

“Joe had a train and he would run it day and night ‘cause the lights were
always on,” said author and advocate Bob Perske. “He’d yell, ‘Train wreck!
Train wreck!’ and someone would have to reach through the bars and put it
back on track.”

Perske learned of Arridy’s story 15 years ago when a friend gave him a poem
making reference to Arridy. Since then the author, who lives in Connecticut
but was raised in Denver, has been “obsessed” with Arridy, visiting his
grave numerous times.

“If you’re going to kill someone you better make sure it’s the right
people,” said Dan Leonetti, who has written a screenplay about Arridy’s
life. “Joe was innocent. He was a man-child with no one to defend him and
the system swallowed him up.”

The movie will be called “The Woodpecker Waltz,” so-named for the hill he’s
buried on.

“We’ll find an unknown actor to play Joe. Someone with spirit and a good
soul to portray his innocence and purity,” said Micheline Keller, whose
Keller Entertainment Group will produce the movie. “He touched so many
people in his short life. Hardened death row inmates wept when he was taken

Warden Best, who Perske described as someone “you didn’t cross” and was
known to beat prisoners, grew close to Arridy. Best would bring Arridy toys
and on Christmas Eve in 1938, days before Arridy was put to death, brought
him home to play with his nephews.

Denver attorney David Hernandez also became interested in the case and is
seeking a posthumous pardon for Arridy.


Source : Colorado Springs Gazette