Posts Tagged ‘causes of wrongful convictions’

Phil Locke of the Ohio Innocence Project and Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic on how the justice system frequently ignores guilt or innocence, Comment on the Nature and State of the (US) Justice System.

Also a great read, the story of Lorinda Swain who was recently exonerated after spending more than 7 years in jail.  She was freed 6 years after a judge said that there was a “significant probability” she was innocent.

Finally cleared, years after judge first ruled her guilt was dubious…

 

Members of a specialized narcotics team operating in Alabama have been accused of planting drugs and weapons on innocent young African American men in a series of wide-ranging abuses spanning nearly 20 years in an investigative article printed by the Henry County Report.  According to documents obtained by the Alabama Justice Project, up to 12 officers working in the Dothan Police Department’s narcotics squad reportedly participated in the scheme, which began in the mid-90s.

They specifically targeted young African American men.  Most of the men were prosecuted and imprisoned, some are still incarcerated.

The report also indicated that the initial results of an internal investigation into the abuses was suppressed by the police department, including former Police Chief John White, current Police Chief Steve Parrish, former Sgt. Andy Hughes, who is now the assistant director of Homeland Security for Alabama, and District Attorney Doug Valeska.  The posts also mentioned former police officer Michael Magrino by name.  He now works as a private investigator.

Valeska appears to have been unconcerned by statements from officers attesting to the fact that evidence had been planted on defendants.  He barreled forward with prosecutions undeterred and failed to even share the information with defense attorneys.

The misconduct alleged is being overshadowed by the racism that may have affected decision-making at every level.  The article notes that the officers allegedly involved in the misconduct belonged to a neo-confederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as “hostile toward democracy” and exhibiting “an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy.”

This specific group has advocated sending African Americans to Africa, has taken part in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and believe that African Americans have lower IQs.  The article alleges that Assistant Director of Homeland Security for Alabama Hughes and current Police Chief Parrish held “leadership positions”.  The documents were leaked by active Dothan police officers who have requested anonymity from the reporter.  The documents have been shared with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

There have been no announcements on whether Attorney General Loretta Lynch will investigate.  (more…)

Lewis Fogle was yet another victim of incentivized testimony.  Fogle, a Pennsylvania man, was imprisoned 34 years ago for the rape and murder of a teenage girl mostly based upon the testimony of jailhouse snitches.  A judge this week vacated the conviction for the 1976 rape and murder of Deanna Long.  Prosecutors have not decided whether or not they will retry Fogle.  The Pennsylvania Innocence Project pressed police to dig out physical evidence that could be retested for DNA.  The Indiana County prosecutor’s office agreed to retest the items.

The DNA test excluded Fogle, who was serving life in prison, as the source of sperm found on the victim.  Prosecutors subsequently agreed to overturning Fogle’s conviction.  Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said his investigators are now combing through the remaining evidence to see if they have a strong enough case to retry Fogle.  Dougherty said that he believes Fogle, 63, was involved, “the question is whether I can prove it.”

Dougherty went on to admit that the new DNA evidence means that Fogle isn’t the rapist.  This means that the prosecution is changing their theory of the crime to more than one perpetrator.  The conviction had to be vacated because Fogle’s murder conviction rests on the underlying felony of rape, which he did not commit.

Dougherty also admitted that in the original case there was no physical evidence tying Fogle to the crime and that he was convicted mainly on the testimony of informants who claimed he confessed to murdering the 15-year-old.  These confessions allegedly happened nearly 5 years after the crime.

“The DNA evidence has proven that Mr. Fogle had nothing to do with this terrible crime,” said David Loftis, managing attorney for the Innocence Project, “Now that his conviction has been vacated, we are grateful that he will be reunited with his friends and family today.”

Fogle’s wife has always stood by him, the couple married just before his conviction.  “He’s my husband and I love him,” said a tearful Deb Fogle, “It’s been a long, long process.”

“He has always claimed that he was innocent, and just thank goodness that we had DNA that we were able to test and conclusively prove that he was innocent,” said David Loftis.

Long was found dead in 1976, she had been shot in the head.  Fogle was convicted in 1982.  Four people were originally arrested in the case, but only Fogle was tried.  The other three suspects’ cases were withdrawn by the prosecution or dismissed because of constitutional violations.  One of those people has since died.

Fogle has always maintained his innocence and denies all involvement in the death of Long.

Dougherty said, the victim’s family is disappointed, “they have questions and concerns…I think they understand with this new evidence…the evidence existed but the technology didn’t really exist in the early 80s.”

“Incentivized informants have contributed to 15 percent of those wrongly convicted and later proven innocent by DNA evidence,” said Marissa Bluestine, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which is also representing Fogle. “This type of evidence is inherently unreliable and should never serve as the sole basis for prosecuting someone.”

The next hearing in the case is September 14th.  In the meantime, Fogle will be required to remain in Pennsylvania though he will be out on bond.

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