Sunday, 29 November 2009

Nettmøte med Kerry Cook

Tidligere dødssdømte Kerry Cook svarer på dine spørsmål under nettmøte hos VG Nett kl 14.00 i dag. Og Norgesturnéen fortsetter.

Kerry Cook satt 22 år på dødscelle og ventet på å bli henrettet for et mord han ikke hadde begått. Det er nå ni år siden han slapp ut. Hvert ledige minutt av tiden i frihet bruker han til å fortelle historien sin og kjempe mot dødsstraff.
Kerry Cook har allerede besøkt Trondheim, han ble intervjuet på Skavlan på fredag og i kveld skal han åpne en utstilling om dødsstraff i Oslo. I morgen går turen til Stavanger og Bergen.

Dersom du ikke får mulighet til å treffe ham i løpet av den omfattende Norgeturnéen, får du sjansen til å stille Kerry spørsmål direkte på VGs nettmøte klokka 14.00 i dag.

Les deg opp på historien til Kerry i forkant av nettmøtet, i reportasjen Døden er grønn som dollaren fra siste utgave av AmnestyMagasinet, eller på Kerry Cooks egen nettside

Se resten av programmet i Oslo, Stavanger og Bergen.

Former death row Kerry Cook answers your questions during your meeting with VG Nett at 14.00 today. And Norway tour continues.

Kerry Cook was 22 years on death row waiting to be executed for a murder he did not commit. It is now nine years since he dropped out. Every available minute of time in the freedom he uses to tell his story and the fight against the death penalty.
Kerry Cook has already visited Trondheim, he was interviewed on Skavlan on Friday, and tonight he will open an exhibition about the death penalty in Oslo. Tomorrow, the trip to Stavanger and Bergen.

If you do not get the chance to meet him during the extensive tour Norway, you get the chance to ask Kerry questions directly on the VG's online meeting at 14.00 today.

Read up on the history of Kerry ahead of this meeting, in the story "Death is green like the dollar from the last edition of the Amnesty magazine, or on Kerry Cook's own website

See the rest of the program in Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen.


Prosecutors Try toTurn Tables on Professor Who Frees the Innocent

EVANSTON, Ill. -- David Protess says his life changed on the day in 1991 when David Dowaliby walked free.

"That's when I really found my life's calling," says the Northwestern University journalism professor, whose students' digging helped overturn Mr. Dowaliby's conviction for the murder of his 7-year-old stepdaughter.

Mr. Protess also found a career that has made him a media star, with a string of book and movie deals. He and his future students would go on to free 10 more convicted murderers and inspire former Illinois Gov. George Ryan to halt the death penalty in the state.

Now, state prosecutors in Chicago are trying to turn the legal and ethical tables on Mr. Protess and his students. Prosecutors have alleged the students paid informants and were acting as private investigators rather than journalists -- in a bid to strip them of protections under an Illinois shield law for reporters. At risk are the fates both of Mr. Protess's class and of Anthony McKinney, who was convicted of the 1978 murder of a security guard.

Mr. Protess, an alternately charming and pugnacious 63-year-old with a hint of a Brooklyn accent, said he has had good relations with prosecutors in the past. This time around, he said, they are engaged in a "smear campaign" motivated by "payback for previous embarrassments and pay-forward for cases my students are still investigating."

Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez, whose office has subpoenaed unpublished interviews, student grades and emails, says she just wants to get to the truth. "This is not writing for the newspaper, it's not writing a term paper," she says. "It's creating evidence for a criminal court."

Mr. Protess earned a doctorate in public policy from the University of Chicago in 1974, but he says he soon grew bored with pure academia.

"When I received my doctorate, the action was in journalism because of Watergate," he says. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, "were my heroes."

Mr. Protess gravitated toward investigative reporting, eventually writing for Chicago Lawyer magazine and other publications, while teaching at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.

A turning point came in 1990, when he and a team of students took on Mr. Dowaliby's case. The group's work led a key government witness to admit he couldn't be sure Mr. Dowaliby was the man he had seen near a Dumpster where the girl's body was found. A subsequent book by Mr. Protess and journalist Rob Warden was turned into a made-for-TV movie starring Shannen Doherty.

The case set a pattern in which Mr. Protess trained his investigative-journalism students and sent them off on real-life assignments.

Mr. Protess says he has received 15,000 requests for help from convicts since he set up the Medill Innocence Project in 1999. His students have investigated about 50 of them.

"There has to be some compelling doubt," he says. Grades aren't influenced by the outcome, just the quality of the work, he added.

Diana Samuels, now a 23-year-old reporter for the Palo Alto, Calif., Daily News, found evidence of guilt, not innocence, when she was poring over the phone records of a man convicted of armed robbery and murder in the case she investigated in 2008. A call placed to a rental-car company led her to a car spotted at the crime scene.

"He was a good actor," she says of the convict, who confessed he had been lying to the students, but "we tried to keep an open mind." She says she received an A in the class.

Mr. Protess says the students also kept an open mind in the case of Anthony McKinney, 49, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1978 murder of Donald Lundahl.

With no physical evidence linking Mr. McKinney to the murder, the students used the television log for a boxing match to prove that two witnesses who said they watched the fight couldn't also have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed.

And they tracked down seven people who said a convicted murderer, Tony Drake, had confessed to the crime. They also taped Mr. Drake saying he was at the scene and Mr. McKinney wasn't.

Mr. Protess blogged about the case and turned over the students' work to Northwestern lawyers, who filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court last year, seeking to vacate Mr. McKinney's conviction or obtain a new trial.

In a filing two weeks ago, prosecutors said Mr. Drake had recanted his statement. They also said Mr. Drake alleged that he received $40 in cash from a cab driver who had been given $60 by a private investigator working with the students.

Evan Benn, now a 27-year-old reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says he, not the investigator, paid the driver $60 based on where Mr. Drake said he wanted to go. Mr. Benn says he told the driver, " 'Don't let him out early. Don't give him any of the money. No funny business.' "

Mr. Protess vows to press the case even if it lands him in jail for refusing to turn over the records. "This is not a fight I picked, but it's one I've come to embrace," he says.


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Former Death Row prisoner to speak at Vatican conference

The campaign to end the death penalty around the world, is the theme of a study conference in Rome, tomorrow, at the Pontifical Urban University. The initiative is being organized by the students of 'Omnes Gentes' of the Pontifical Urban University.

'The death penalty in the world today: the struggle for abolition, for a new culture of life' will be the subject of the talk given by Dr Charles Santoro, a member of the group 'No to the Death Penalty' of the Community of Sant'Egidio. This will be followed by Joaquin José Martinez, a former death-row prisoner in Florida, released in 2001, who will present 'A testimony from death row'.

The International Day 'Cities for Life - Cities Against the Death Penalty' recalls the first anniversary of the abolition of capital punishment from a European state, by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1786. The approval, in the last two years, of two resolutions for a universal moratorium on capital punishment in the General Assembly of the United Nations confirm a change in sentiment in the world to a new and higher threshold, to respect for human rights.

According to Amnesty International's report: 'Death Sentences and Executions in 2008,' between January and December last year, at least 2,390 people in 25 countries were put to death and at least 8,864 death sentence have been issued in 52 countries. The student association Omnes Gentes (OG) is an organization that represents all students of the Pontifical Urban University. During the year, the OG organizes several initiatives for the comparison and enrichment of students, thanks to the great variety of traditions and cultures present in the university.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

High court to hear scent evidence appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeals will hear a case from San Jacinto County calling into question the validity of dog scent lineups. Richard Winfrey was convicted of murder after being identified in one of Keith Pikett's dog scent lineups. The CCA previously affirmed that Deputy Pikett was an expert. Now they can correct mistake by determining that scent lineups are unreliable and should not be used in a courtroom.

More information here :

Source(Innocence Project of Texas)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Peter Shellem, Investigative Reporter Who Wrote About Wrongful Convictions, Dies at 49

Peter Shellem, whose relentless digging into dusty court records, erroneous crime-lab reports and coerced confessions during his 23 years as a reporter for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., led to the release of five wrongly convicted prisoners, died Oct. 24 at his home in Gardners, Pa. He was 49.

In one case, a man who was a teenager when he was convicted of killing a neighbor was released after 28 years in prison. In another, DNA evidence that Mr. Shellem recovered from a professor’s refrigerator in Leipzig, Germany, exonerated a retarded man of rape and murder.

Mr. Shellem committed suicide, his son Philip said, but the Cumberland County coroner, Michael Norris, would not confirm the cause of death.

Although Mr. Shellem’s investigative work was not widely known outside of central Pennsylvania, Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, called him “a rare, one-man journalism innocence project.”

“He got into the nitty-gritty details of cases, and when he began to believe that somebody was wrongfully convicted he wouldn’t stop until he got justice,” Mr. Scheck said Monday. “Justice from the Fourth Estate has always been a great safety valve of our legal system, and Pete Shellem was that safety valve in Pennsylvania.”

In a profile in 2007, American Journalism Review wrote of Mr. Shellem, “No one keeps records on such things, but experts on journalism and the wrongly convicted cannot think of a present-day reporter who by himself has compiled a résumé of freed prisoners as thick as Shellem’s.”

Among them is Steven Crawford, who was arrested in 1970, when he was 14, after a friend was bludgeoned to death with a hammer. In 2001, Mr. Shellem learned that an old briefcase had been found in the attic of a deceased detective who had worked on the case. Notes in the briefcase suggested that a state police chemist had altered laboratory results to help convict Mr. Crawford. The Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office supported Mr. Crawford’s release after 28 years in prison.

In 1988, Barry Laughman, a man with an IQ of about 70, was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a distant relative, Edna Laughman. Fifteen years later, Mr. Shellem’s series in The Patriot-News pointed to flaws in the case, including a confession that appeared to have been coerced. He also tracked down microscope slides of semen recovered from the victim’s body that had been taken to Germany by a professor who had tried, but failed, to identify the DNA. DNA techniques that had improved since the trial showed that Mr. Laughman was not the killer. He was freed in 2003.

“In the Laughman case, Pete was beating his head against the wall for years and no one would listen to him,” Bill Moushey, director of the Innocence Institute of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, said Monday. “Some law enforcement people brought personal attacks against him, trying to debunk his work, but he stood strong and eventually that retarded kid walked out of prison.”

Among the other prisoners freed by Mr. Shellem’s investigations is David Gladden, who was convicted in 1995 of killing a 67-year-old woman, Geneva Long, and burning the body. Ten years later, Mr. Shellem discovered that a convicted serial killer had lived next door to Ms. Long; he had killed his known victims in the same way.

Mr. Shellem interviewed a witness who had testified that he was with Mr. Gladden at the time of the crime. The witness recanted, saying he had been coerced into confessing a role in the crime. Mr. Gladden walked out of prison on Feb. 16, 2007.

“I don’t start writing until I’m sure I’m right,” Mr. Shellem told The American Journalism Review, “and if people need to be embarrassed into doing the right thing, I’m happy to oblige them.”

Peter Joseph Shellem was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 6, 1960, one of five children of Harry and Josephine Shellem. Besides his son Philip, he is survived by his wife of 24 years, the former Joyce Elser; another son, Alek; a brother, Paul; and a sister, Karen Cain.

Mr. Shellem graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism in 1983. While in college, he worked at The Delaware County Times. He was a reporter for The Mercury, in Pottstown, Pa., before being hired by The Patriot-News in 1986.

A bearded, barrel-chested man, Mr. Shellem could have been cast as a B-movie reporter. He knew the first names of many bartenders in Harrisburg. He would sit in a bar poring over court transcripts and interviewing sources.

“I don’t want to lead anyone to believe I go to bars only to get stories,” he once said, “although it would be nice if my editors did.”