Mother’s Day Math: Mother’s Love > The System

We couldn’t fit all the ACJP mothers in one picture, but here are a few of them whose strength fuels us all to keep going, to keep fighting.  They come every Sunday or Tuesday — after their visits with their children in jail, or even way after their children’s court cases are over — to then uplift other family members who have faced the same struggles.  Happy Mothers’ Day to these Moms!  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
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New York Times Editorial: Who Will Mourn George Whitmore, Jr?

In 1968, George Whitmore, Jr. was beaten by New York police and coerced to signing a 61 page confession that he murdered two women.  He contended that he was somewhere else that day — watching Martin Luther King Jr’s historic civil rights speech and had witnesses who could attest to him.  Nevertheless, he was convicted for these murders.  Steadfast to his innocence — and supported by lawyers, advocates, and civil rights activists — his conviction was overturned 9 years later.  And his case was pivotal to the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling to protect alleged suspects and to the partial repeal of capital punishment in New York City. 

While he is 3,000 miles away from Santa Clara County, the impact of his resolve to maintain his innocence reverbrates here.  At ACJP, we’ve seen youth as young as 15 forced to make confessions to crimes they didn’t commit.  But because of cases like Mr. Whitmore Jr, people can still be protected.  This particular editorial talks about the emotional toll the system can take on you and the personal fall-out of the struggle for justice.  It is this silent and sad struggle that is rarely documented.  To the question the writer posed on “Who Will Mourn George Whitmore Jr”, we resoundingly answer — we will, and we will honor his sacrifice as we hold our systems accountable.  Submitted by Charisse Domingo

Op-Ed Contributor
Who Will Mourn George Whitmore?
By T. J. ENGLISH
Photo by Tom Cunningham/NY Daily News, via Getty Images
New York Times
Published: October 12, 2012

I received news this week of the death of George Whitmore Jr., an occurrence noted, apparently, by no one in the public arena. That Whitmore could die without a single mention in the media is a commentary on a city and nation that would rather bury and forget the difficult aspects of our shared history.

Forty-eight years ago, as a New York City teenager, Whitmore was initiated into an ordeal at the hands of a racist criminal justice system. For a time, his story rattled the news cycle. He was chewed up and spit out: an ill-prepared kid vilified as a murderer, then championed as an emblem of injustice and, finally, cast aside. That he survived his tribulations and lived to the age of 68 was a miracle.
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Reuters: Wrongfully convicted Colorado man set free after 16 years

Powerful story of a man who is finally free due to exonerating DNA. The ACJP family finds great inspiration in this story as we are currently working on a case that has a similar fact pattern — including DNA that proves innocence. Check it out…

GRAND JUNCTION, Co. (Reuters) – A Colorado man wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman found strangled with a dog leash was exonerated on the basis of new DNA evidence and set free on Monday after spending more than 16 years behind bars. Read more>>>

Calling in For Justice: EastValley ACJP Starts New Wrongful Conviction Case Via Phone from Prison Cell

At last night’s ACJP meeting at East Valley Pentacostal Church, Becky took a call from a childhood friend who was wrongfully convicted and faces a life sentence. He has been incarcerated for the past 17 years. Today, ACJP begun the work to support him in his path to freedom. In the image, he is calling on speaker phone, with Becky listening while a pile of his paperwork is laid out on the table, waiting for us to review. Just after the call, we found out we got an ACJP member’s case from life to one year in county. So finishing beating one life sentence, and starting the path to beat another. Just another Tuesday night with Becky and the ACJP team at East Valley Pentacostal Church!

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Expands Defendant’s Rights In Plea Deals

In both the federal and state court systems, 9 out of 10 cases end up in a plea bargain, wiping out the notion of your “day in court”.  Both Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are no different. We know families with loved ones serving long prison sentences, had their children taken away, or ended up in deportation proceedings because of a plea bargain gone wrong.  But the Supreme Court ruled this week that defendants have a right to competent counsel during the plea bargaining phase of the criminal justice system.  This ruling honestly is a little surprising, because you’d think effective assistance of counsel should extend to all phases of the justice system already.  But this seals the clarity once and for all.  Submission post by Charisse Domingo

Supreme Court expands defendant’s rights in plea deals

In two 5-4 decisions, the Supreme Court rules that defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea deal.

By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
Los Angeles Times
March 21, 2012

Reporting from Washington—

Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain, the Supreme Court ruled, providing a significant expansion of rights that could have a broad impact on the justice system. Continue reading

San Jose Mercury News: Santa Clara County DA program aims to boost reliability of eyewitness identifications

According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. Implementing this program is a step in the right direction to make sure that justice can be properly carried out.  Submission post by Charisse Domingo

SANTA CLARA COUNTY DA PROGRAM AIMS TO BOOST RELIABILITY OF EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATIONS

By Tracey Kaplan
02/04/2012 06:40:08 AM PST

To boost the reliability of eyewitness identifications, every police department in Santa Clara County has recently begun videotaping or recording most witnesses as they pick out a suspect from a set of photos or a live lineup.

The practice, spearheaded by District Attorney Jeff Rosen, is the latest technique law enforcement agencies across the nation are using to try to reduce wrongful convictions. In the Bay Area, police in San Francisco, Oakland and Pleasant Hill are among those who also have adopted it.

But Santa Clara County is believed to be the only county in the state where every police agency from the Highway Patrol to campus officers at San Jose State has signed a protocol agreeing to it.

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New York Times: The Certainty of Memory Has Its Day in Court

According to the Innocence Project, 75% of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases cited witness misidentification testimony as a factor, making it the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.  This month, the Supreme Court heard the first of oral arguments in a case that questions witness testimony as the “gold standard” of criminal prosecution.  Submission post by Charisse Domingo

THE CERTAINTY OF MEMORY HAS ITS DAY IN COURT
by Laura Beil
New York Times
November 28, 2011

Witness testimony has been the gold standard of the criminal justice system, revered in courtrooms and crime dramas as the evidence that clinches a case.

Yet scientists have long cautioned that the brain is not a filing cabinet, storing memories in a way that they can be pulled out, consulted and returned intact. Memory is not so much a record of the past as a rough sketch that can be modified even by the simple act of telling the story.

For scientists, memory has been on trial for decades, and courts and public opinion are only now catching up with the verdict. It has come as little surprise to researchers that about 75 percent of DNA-based exonerations have come in cases where witnesses got it wrong. Continue reading