San Jose Mercury News: San Jose bounty hunter, wrongly shot by LAPD cops, wins $1.65 million settlement

Mercury News: San Jose bounty hunter, wrongly shot by LAPD cops, wins $1.65 million settlement
By Tracey Kaplan January 20, 2011

A San Jose bounty hunter who was gunned down without provocation by a Los Angeles police officer while trying to take a fugitive into custody has been awarded $1.165 million by a federal jury.

The officer claimed he shot bail agent E.A. Gilbert twice in self-defense at a housing project after dark on Nov. 30, 2005, after Gilbert pointed a .45-caliber gun at him and his partner. Both said they mistook Gilbert and another bounty hunter as robbers as they were subduing a bail jumper.

But the jury last week found Officer Daniel Pearce used excessive force and believed Gilbert’s claim that his gun was never aimed at the cops. Jurors based their decision on eyewitness accounts as well as physical evidence, including the trajectory of the bullets. Continue reading

San Francisco Crime Lab Debacle Signals Need to Challenge Prosecutor’s Junk Science

by Aram James

A compromised crime lab might be more endemic than an exception, and according to defense attorney Aram James, points to a larger flaw in the mechanics of the criminal justice system.

Recent revelations of a compromised crime lab in San Francisco has brought scrutiny and criticism to the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney’s office. Investigations by oversight agencies as well as the media have shown that the lab had mixed up DNA sample, concealed criticisms from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, and had insufficient security – with doors to the facility being left open, leaving DNA potentially exposed to contamination, opening up challenges to the evidentiary chain of custody and a variety of other attacks on its scientific reliability.

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San Jose Mercury News: De-Bug Increases Role as Legal Watchdog With Soros Justice Award

by Tracey Kaplan, April 5, 2010

Ramon Vasquez’s urban nightmare began when San Jose police surrounded him at gunpoint in a parking lot of a Coca-Cola distribution center. Instead of coaching his son’s Little League game that day, the soft-drink deliveryman wound up jailed for a gang-related murder, facing a possible life sentence.

Few outside his family and friends believed he was innocent until his fiancee heard about a free legal clinic offered every Sunday near downtown San Jose by the grass-roots group De-Bug.

With De-Bug’s help, all charges against Vasquez were dismissed and he was set free five months after being arrested.

In February, he was deemed factually innocent by a judge, erasing his record and increasing his chances of remuneration from the county.

“It was like I had a law firm behind me,” Vasquez, 29, said of De-Bug’s efforts, including urging his government-appointed attorney to mount a more aggressive defense. “I probably would have fallen through the cracks if it wasn’t for my family and De-Bug.”

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Inmates With Mental Health Needs Suffer Even More Severe Hardships in CA Prison System

by Ernest Chavez

A recent Supreme Court decision highlights the “cruel and unusual” conditions of the California prison system. Community organizer Ernest Chavez says inmates with mental health needs, such as Jerome Wilson, illustrate an even deeper systemic problem.

On May 23, 2010, in the landmark decision of Brown v. Plata, the Supreme Court of the United States ordered the release of 37,000 prison inmates in California, arguing that the severe overcrowding in the prison facilities has reached a new height of danger – calling the current conditions of the facilities, “cruel and unusual,” and unconstitutional. In a system where tens of thousands of prison inmates suffer from mental illness and mental health issues, it is especially urgent to consider how these individuals will be impacted by this court order.

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Mercury News: Jurist Defends Colleague While Declaring Murder Suspect Factually Innocent

After spending 5 months in jail for a wrongful arrest, ACJP member Ramon Vasquez sought to clear his name through a legal device called a “factual finding of innocence”.  It is a rarely given judgment, but Ramon, his family, and the ACJP community was steadfast in his struggle. 

by Tracey Kaplan, February 25, 2010
Ramon Vasquez spent five months behind bars as a murder suspect. He was found factually innocent Wednesday.

A San Jose man has been deemed factually innocent of murder in a rare ruling by a judge who stressed the importance of an outspoken judiciary — even in the face of blistering criticism of a fellow judge by prosecutors.

Over the objections of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Judge Eugene M. Hyman found that Ramon Vasquez had nothing to do with the fatal shooting of Rogelio Silva two years ago. Continue reading

Once Facing a Life Sentence, Man Given Factual Finding of Innocence

Ramon Vasquez was an innocent man wrongfully charged with murder. Though his court appointed attorney told him to plea at one point, Vasquez remained steadfast in his belief that the truth of his innocence would be proven. His family dissected the case against him, and with the attorney, proved Vasquez could not have committed the crime. Here is his story. Video produced by Adrian Avila.

New York Times: A Silicon Valley Group Gives Voice to Voiceless

In the following profile featured in the New York Times, Daniel Weintraub writes about Silicon Valley De-Bug, including the work of ACJP. He writes, “It is part alternative media, part community organizer, part youth center and now is immersed in the region’s criminal justice system on behalf of the accused and their families.”

Adrian Avila was a 17-year-old street graffiti artist who had a job at a local hot dog stand when he wandered into the offices of Silicon Valley De-Bug eight years ago. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. But he found it.

Today,Mr. Avila is 25, the organization’s art director and the owner of a T-shirt design and production company.

“It changed my life,” Mr. Avila, a Mexican national who came to this country with his mother when he was 5 and remains an illegal immigrant, said of the group. “It instilled this voice in me that I knew had to get out. All of a sudden I had an outlet to communicate my struggle, my experiences.” Continue reading