Exoneration

  • June 23, 2015
    Video Interview

    by Nanya Springer

    As Stephen Bright provided closing remarks at the 2015 ACS National Convention, he extoled the virtue of representing unpopular clients ‒ particularly criminal defendants, who are usually poor and often people of color.  He listed the names of inmates who have been wrongfully convicted and recently released from prison, all unwitting members of a far-too-large society of American exonerees:  Willie Manning in Mississippi, Anthony Ray Hinton in Alabama, Alfred Brown in Texas, and Glenn Ford in Louisiana.  But Bright also delighted the crowd by introducing a special guest: exoneree and recent law school graduate Jarrett Adams.

    Adams served almost 10 years of a 28-year prison sentence for a crime that he did not commit.  After being exonerated with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, he obtained a degree in criminal justice and then attended law school at Loyola University Chicago.  He has worked at the Federal Defender’s Office in Chicago and at the public interest law firm Loevy & Loevy, and soon he will begin a dual fellowship with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ‒ the very court that overturned his conviction and set him free.

    At the convention, Adams sat down with ACS to explain why it’s so important for law students to develop professional networks.  He said, “There are only so many big firms, and if you don’t . . . get a 4.0 or know someone . . . you don’t have the opportunity to summer with them and to get into the door.  ACS offers you the opportunity to network with the big law firms at events like this.”  He added, “You never know when you’re going to be in a networking event and meet someone that’s going to help you become someone.”

    Arguably, Adams – who hopes to practice civil rights law and continue leading the nonprofit organization he co-founded, Life After Justice – is already “someone.”  But, as he would probably agree, there is always room for growth and advancement.

    Adams’ entire interview can be viewed below.

  • April 9, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Timothy Williams report on how the video of the Walter Scott shooting has reinvigorated the national debate on police tactics.

    Robinson Meyer applauds the courage of citizens who record police abuses in a piece at The Atlantic.

    In the Los Angeles Times, Scott Martelle argues that the criminal justice system fails to support those who are exonerated.

    At the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice, Tomas Lopez explains the opportunity Maryland has to restore voting rights to 40,000 people.

    Katha Pollit argues in Salon that CEOs should stand up for their pregnant and potentially pregnant employees in the new abortion battles.

    Scott Bauer of the Associated Press (via the Wisconsin State Journal) that the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court filed a federal lawsuit over a voter-approved amendment that will likely result in her demotion. 

  • April 27, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Matt Kelley, Online Communications Manager, The Innocence Project 

    A Texas state panel was expected on Friday to discuss of the hot-button case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of murder based on flawed arson science and executed in 2004. Unfortunately, the case got just 15 minutes of a six-hour meeting, and the panel's chairman continues to choose bureaucracy and secrecy over real case work.

    The Willingham case -- like countless other cases involving unvalidated forensics or outright misconduct -- requires a thorough, open investigation to repair broken forensic systems and prevent future injustice. Since becoming the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC) chairman in October, prosecutor John Bradley has not demonstrated a desire to pursue these investigations, instead focusing on the commission's structure and procedures.

    The Innocence Project formally submitted the Willingham case to the commission for review in 2006, and it was accepted in 2008, but a member of the panel said Friday that the commission's investigation of the case "is in its infancy." And now, Bradley says case-specific discussions will take place behind closed doors. Bradley appointed himself to serve on a four-member committee that will review the Willingham case in secret.

    Critics have complained that Bradley has used his tenure to slow the commission's work and move it behind closed doors.

  • October 29, 2009
    BookTalk
    The Last Lawyer
    The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates
    By: 
    John Temple

    By John Temple, Associate Professor of Journalism, West Virginia University & Associate Dean, P.I. Reed School of Journalism

    A few weeks ago, anti-death penalty activists found a powerful argument for their cause: Cameron Todd Willingham.

    Willingham is the Texas man who was executed in 2004 for arson murders that, as it turns out, he may not have committed. The case is making headlines again after a New Yorker piece made a compelling argument that the case was bungled and Willingham was innocent.

    Since 1973, 138 people have been released from death row with evidence of innocence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Abolitionists have used those numbers to reason that if that many people have been wrongly sentenced to death, some percentage of the 1,176 inmates executed since 1979 must have been innocent.

    But until Willingham, activists lacked strong evidence of innocence in a prisoner who had actually been executed.

    The abolitionist movement has used various arguments over the years. The contention that the death penalty is morally wrong seems to resonate with only a certain percentage of the population. The argument that death sentences are more expensive than life in prison and do little to deter murders has not led to a widespread shift in public opinion either.

    Innocence, on the other hand, is a powerful, graspable concept. Innocent until proven guilty, after all, is a core tenet of our justice system, something most of us learn early on from our parents or in civics class.

    But does the concept resonate when turned on its head - guilty and then proven innocent? What about someone who is found guilty and then returned to that uncertain state of limbo, somewhere in between innocence and guilt, called exoneration? Does exoneration always equate to innocence?

    A case in point provides the narrative backbone of my new book, The Last Lawyer. The case began in 1987, when an elderly bootlegger was shot to death in Duplin County, a poor rural region in eastern North Carolina. Nearly four years later, the ex-girlfriend of a North Carolina farmhand named Bo Jones told police that he was the killer. On her testimony alone, Jones was sentenced to death in 1993.