FOIA Mapper aims to make it easier for journalists to know where to look for public documents

That’s why independent data journalist Max Galka is launching FOIA Mapper, a Knight Foundation-backed site that goes live today. It aims to streamline the FOIA process by helping users figure out the best ways to request the documents they need.

Read more here.

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Jeffrey MacDonald

Jeffrey Robert MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in February 1970, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

MacDonald was a U.S. Army officer (Special Forces Green Beret) and a medical doctor. He maintains that a group of Charles Manson-type hippies committed the murders.

In 2011, an Innocence Project press release stated :

Since MacDonald was convicted of the murders in 1979, considerable evidence of his innocence has come to light.  Most recently, retired US Marshall Jimmy Britt came forward with information that another suspect in the case, Helena Stoeckley, admitted to the prosecutor that she was in the house on the night of MacDonald’s murder and that he treated to indict her for first degree murder if she admitted that in court.  In addition, DNA testing on evidence that was recovered from the fingernails scrapings of one of the victims and a hair found under another victim did not match MacDonald.  Earlier, evidence came to light that a FBI forensic examiner mislead the jury about synthetic hair evidence.  MacDonald claimed the hairs were from the wig of one of the murders, but the forensic examiner incorrectly claimed they were from one of the children’s dolls.

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BBC Documentary (1989):

Rob Will

In 2000, Rob Will was unfairly convicted for the slaying of a police officer. Due to derisory legal counsel, prosecutorial and juror misconduct, as well as evidence withheld during trial- Rob was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

In spite of Rob being handcuffed at time of the fatal shooting (radio logs prove this) and numerous confessions by his co-defendant saying Rob is innocent- an innocent man awaits an execution date.
U.S. Federal District Judge stated, “On top of considerable evidence supporting Will’s innocence and the important errors in the trial court, there must also be addressed the absence of eyewitness testimony or strongly probative forensic evidence… only circumstantial evidence supports Will’s conviction and death sentence.”

Source

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The Cure for the Cynical Prosecutors’ Syndrome

Laurie L. Levenson
Loyola Law School Los Angeles

August 20, 2015

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, Vol 20, Issue 2 (2015)
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-27

Abstract:
One of the biggest challenges facing the criminal justice system is dealing with the growing tide of post-conviction petitions claiming wrongful conviction. Each year, the number of exonerees grows. In 2014, an unprecedented 125 exonerations were recorded in the United States. In analyzing how post-conviction matters are handled, it becomes apparent that one of the key roadblocks to remedying these injustices is not, as some have suggested, the attitude of young prosecutors. Rather, senior prosecutors also suffer from a type of “Cynical Prosecutors’ Syndrome” that impairs their ability to play a constructive role in the exoneration process. This article discusses the role of prosecutors in the post-conviction process, analyzes current studies of prosecutorial attitudes, and proposes reforms to ensure that meritorious post-conviction challenges are handled properly.

Full Article Here

Devonia Inman

Devonia Inman was convicted of shooting Taco Bell manager Donna Brown in a late night robbery. Inman was convicted based on witness testimony, including his girlfriend’s sister, a jailhouse snitch, and a Taco Bell employee, all of whom later said they lied.

At Inman’s trial in 2001, the judge rejected three defense witnesses who would have pointed to an alternate suspect, Taco Bell employee Hercules Brown, who was not related to the victim but was known for violence.

Inman’s fate now rests on a ski mask cut from an old pair of sweatpants. The mask appears in the original crime scene photos of the victim’s car, but GBI records indicate it was left sitting in the vehicle for days after the murder. It was not processed as evidence until the victim’s family found it, once the car had been returned. At the time of the murder, it was not customary for the GBI to screen evidence for the presence of saliva.

In 2011, the Georgia Innocence Project convinced a judge to order the GBI to test the inside of the mask for DNA.

The results matched Hercules Brown, according to the GBI’s test.

The evidence corroborated the three original defense witnesses who would have implicated Brown, if the judge had let them testify.

Full story here

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The Human Toll of Antonin Scalia’s Time on the Court

Blacks, Latinos, and poor whites suffered because of his draconian approach to criminal punishment.

In the days since Antonin Scalia’s death, he has been duly recognized as one of the most impactful justices in the Supreme Court’s history. A critical part of his troubling legacy has long been staring us in the face, although it finally started receiving the public scrutiny it deserves in recent years. As draconian punishments became the norm over the last three decades, the Supreme Court largely rubber-stamped these practices. Justice Scalia played a key role in this process, as his hardline stances on criminal punishment significantly contributed to mass incarceration, numerous executions, and systemic racial discrimination. Scalia was an outspoken supporter of harsh punishments and wanted the court to take an even more hands-off attitude toward so-called “tough on crime” laws.

See here for full article at Slate.com

Steve Moore on Making a Murderer

Retired FBI detective Steve Moore has written an excellent series of blogs on the “Making a Murderer” film, concerning the convictions of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. I strongly recommend reading his blogs, in addition to or instead of watching the film, as they are a mine of interesting information and observation. An index:

Amanda Brumfield

IwINQRZOWfzhFoC-800x450-noPadThis nightmare began on the evening of October 3, 2008 when Amanda’s goddaughter, whom she was caring for, climbed out of her Pack ‘n Play and fell to the floor in Amanda’s home. She seemed fine after a brief period of fussing then played and had a snack before going to bed for the night. She actually was injured far more than anyone could have suspected and died a few hours later in her sleep. Her death was devastating, but this accidental tragedy turned into the unthinkable when Amanda was arrested the following June and subsequently charged with Capital Murder, Aggravated Child Abuse, and Manslaughter of a Child.

Amanda’s biological father is Billy Bob Thornton. We believe his Hollywood celebrity status had adverse influence on the police and Medical Examiner investigations, which ultimately influenced the filing of charges in the first place and led to inaccurate sensationalized press reporting.

Amanda’s trial began May 23, 2011, the day before and in the same courthouse as Casey Anthony’s trial. We believe the heinous facts associates with the Anthony case and its vast media coverage created a powerful public awareness that impacted the ability for Amanda to have a fair trial. The notoriety of the Anthony case led to a community mindset with far reaching adverse influence that greatly overshadowed Amanda’s innocence.

We believe these wrongful charges were based on medical opinions that have no evidentiary basis and defy common sense. Furthermore,recent acknowledgements within the legal and medical communities support the fact that the theory  behind Shaken Baby Syndrome is junk science.

Amanda was acquitted of Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse, but found guilty of Aggravated Manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. No motive, no eyewitness testimony, no prior record, no physical evidence that Amanda ever harmed her goddaughter in any way, yet Amanda is in in prison.

Amanda is now represented by The Innocence Projects of Florida and Wisconsin. A motion for Post Conviction Relief was filed in January, 2015.

We believe Amanda was falsely accused, egregiously charged, and wrongfully convicted. Amanda is innocent and did not receive a fair trial.

Copied from website https://freeamandabrumfield.wordpress.com/

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Dennis and Dameko Vesey

Dennis and Dameko Vesey were convicted of a triple homicide, which occurred in the early morning hours of April 5. 2003.

At that time, Taurus Hill and his girlfriend Tayquela Roberson and their four children were present in the apartment. At least two men entered the apparently with the intention of robbing Mr. Hill, who was known to sell drugs from his apartment, Mr Hill and Ms. Roberson shot to death and Ms Roberson collapsed atop her infant son Taurus Hill Jr.,smothering him to death. The remaining children hid and then ran for help.

Investigators found no forensic evidence to tie my sons to the crime scene, neither did they make any incriminating statements.

Law enforcement authorities investigated for more than one year before arresting them.

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