New interrogation techniques taking hold

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The good cop-bad cop Reid Technique of interrogations, which has caused numerous false confessions and wrongful convictions, may be finally on the way out.

The Marshall Project reports here about how “a radical new interrogation technique is transforming the art of detective work: Shut up and let the suspect do the talking.”

The new technique is also discussed in former homicide detective Jim Trainum’s soon-to-be released book, How the Police Generate False Confessions: An Inside Look at the Interrogation Room. Steve Drizin of the Center on Wrongful Convictions says Trainum’s book “puts a lie to so many myths about police interrogations that I lost count of them all. But it does so much more. Det. Trainum is not just a critic; he is a reformer, charting a course for the proper way for police officers to investigate cases, interview suspects, witnesses and informants and to obtain reliable information from them.” You can read…

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Wrongly Convicted Group Second Annual Review

Since the first annual review, a further 77 cases have been featured, bringing the featured total to 142 cases, and 39 cases have been adopted, bringing the adopted total to 51, and the overall total to 193. One case was featured then later removed from the featured list.

During the year there were 15 exonerations, bringing the total to 26,  two executions, and one death in prison, please see the Featured and Adopted Cast List for details.

Just two of the 26 exonerations to date have been after jury retrials, in May 2015 Stacey Hyde was acquitted and in March 2016 Cherelle Baldwin was acquitted, both self-defense cases.

In May, a petition was created calling for the reform of the AEDPA, please do sign it.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has proposed a case or participated in the voting and discussion, I hope in the coming year more victims of wrongful conviction will obtain justice!

George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For shame : the public humiliation of prosecutors by judges to correct wrongful convictions

Wrongful Convictions Blog

29 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 305 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics Spring, 2016

Lara Bazelon

ABSTRACT

Shaming sanctions have a long history in the United States. In the colonial era, judges routinely subjected criminal offenders to a variety of public humiliations that included branding and even maiming. These punishments were designed to exact retribution, deter future misdeeds, and to impress upon the offender the importance of adhering to community norms. Shaming sanctions largely disappeared in the early 1800s with the rise of the prison industrial complex, only to reappear in courtrooms across the country in the early 1990s, when trial judges began to demand that offenders write public apologies, mop streets they had desecrated, and wear signs proclaiming their offenses to the world.

Now, a new shame sanction is on the horizon with a wholly unexpected cast of characters. The shamers are federal appellate judges; the shamed are prosecutors who…

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Jerome Morgan

Jerome Morgan was convicted of a 1993 murder, and was granted a new trial in 2014, due to two witnesses being pressured into identifying him as the killer. The director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which represents Morgan,  says “there is no evidence against him and only evidence that he is innocent.”

Quote

In a ruling that could severely hamstring Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office in its bid to retry a 23-year-old murder case, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Friday that the trial testimony of two key witnesses who have since recanted their identifications of the alleged killer can’t be used at his new trial.

Jerome Morgan, 40, is slated to stand trial again June 13, two decades after a jury convicted him of murder in the 1993 slaying of 16-year-old Clarence Landry during a birthday party at a Gentilly motel ballroom.

Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny overturned Morgan’s conviction and life sentence and granted him a new trial in early 2014. Derbigny said he believed the claims of the two witnesses, Hakim Shabazz and Kevin Johnson, that New Orleans Police Department detectives pressured them to identify Morgan as Landry’s killer.

Since then, Cannizzaro’s office has charged Shabazz and Johnson with perjury for their conflicting statements, rendering them silent as a new trial for Morgan approaches.

Both men, fearing additional charges, are invoking their Fifth Amendment right and refusing to take the witness stand, in what Morgan’s attorneys argue was a calculated move by prosecutors to keep them from testifying.

In lieu of their testimony, Judge Franz Zibilich, who will preside over the new trial, ruled that the jury could read transcripts of both their original testimony, identifying Morgan, and their recantations in 2013.

Assistant District Attorney Donna Andrieu has acknowledged that how the jury views those conflicting accounts stands at the heart of the case against Morgan. In court, Andrieu has claimed that Innocence Project New Orleans attorneys coerced false recantations from the two men.

The state’s high court ruled Friday that Zibilich was correct in barring from the trial the men’s initial identifications of Morgan to police butmistaken in allowing their 1996 trial testimony to be read at the new trial.
The ruling came on a 4-2 vote, with Justices Marcus Clark and Scott Crichton dissenting and Chief Justice Bernette Johnson not voting.

The Supreme Court vacated Zibilich’s ruling, though it said the judge could revisit the admissibility of their statements — both to police and to the jury that convicted Morgan — “if these witnesses testify at the retrial.”

Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which represents Morgan, hailed the ruling Saturday, saying she hoped it would prod Cannizzaro “to finally dismiss the charges against Jerome Morgan, because there is no evidence against him and only evidence that he is innocent.”

She said Morgan “has been fighting to clear his name since the moment he was arrested by police. He has never wavered from that fight, and it has been a long, hard ordeal for Jerome Morgan, and a long ordeal for the Landry family. It’s time to end it.”

Morgan was 16 when he was arrested and charged with the killing.

A spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office did not immediately comment on the high court’s ruling. The office has a policy against discussing open cases.

Shabazz and Johnson had been with Landry at a May 22, 1993, birthday party in the ballroom at the Howard Johnson motel on Old Gentilly Road. A fight broke out between two groups, and someone pulled a gun and opened fire. Landry was hit in the neck and shoulder, Shabazz in the side and another youth in the thigh.

When police arrived at the party, Morgan was there. Prosecutors alleged at his initial trial that he had managed to run away, hop a fence, stash the gun and return before police arrived.

The jury in the 1994 trial never heard evidence that police reached the scene just six minutes after the shooting started and locked down the ballroom. Instead, the jury heard that it took more than a half-hour for police to arrive. Morgan’s attorneys with the Innocence Project argued that prosecutors withheld the evidence of a quick arrival.

Johnson had testified that he chased the shooter out the door and down an alley. In 2013, he took the stand again, saying Landry had been his best friend and that he was pressured by police to identify Morgan as the shooter.

He first dismissed Morgan’s picture from a photo lineup and did so again seven months later, but he said a detective then pushed the picture back into the mix.

“Are you sure it’s not this guy right here?” the detective asked him, according to an affidavit Johnson signed.

He said the detective told him the photo was of Morgan. Johnson said he figured everybody else must be right, so he fingered Morgan as the killer.

Shabazz spent 10 days in the hospital recovering from his wounds, then got a call from a detective who asked him if he knew who had shot him. Shabazz said he didn’t. According to Shabazz, the detective then said, “Jerome shot you,” and asked Shabazz to come to the station to give a statement.

There, the detective pressured him to point out Morgan and made him feel he would be doing a public service if he did so, Shabazz said in 2013. “It’s almost like they painted this picture for me, that it was him,” he said on the witness stand, adding that he’d been wracked with guilt for years. “What I did, it just wasn’t right.”

Derbigny ruled that the “evidence presented before this court is wrought with deception, manipulation and coercion” by the NOPD.

Soon afterward, prosecutors filed perjury charges against Shabazz and Johnson. The law doesn’t require Cannizzaro’s office to prove on which occasion — in 1994 or in their recantations two decades later — the two men lied on the witness stand.

Cannizzaro’s office, meanwhile, has accused Maw, IPNO attorney Kristin Wenstrom and an investigator of coercing the recantations from Shabazz and Johnson, though no charges have been filed against the lawyers.

In postponing a May 2 trial date to let the higher courts rule, Zibilich pledged to stick to the June 13 trial date.

From Louisiana Supreme Court deals blow to prosecutors with key ruling on upcoming retrial for 1993 teen killing May 14, 2016

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Case dismissed May 31, 2016

Comment on the Nature and State of the (US) Justice System

Wrongful Convictions Blog

While writing the latest post about Jack McCullough‘s exoneration, and while reading Courtney Bisbee‘s latest filing with the US District Court for Arizona, I got to reflecting on my experiences with the justice system over the past eight years, and I thought I would share some of my (unvarnished) observations. Clearly, this will be very editorial. It will probably help to understand my comments to know that I am not an attorney. I am an engineer by training, and that’s what I did for my entire working career – until I started doing innocence work pro bono. So I see the justice system with the naivete’ of someone who is an “outsider” and is not a functionary of the system; but I do see the system as someone who has spent his entire life founded in objective truth and logic and fact. Again, this article will be…

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Brendan Dassey: A True Story of A False Confession

Published on 9 May 2016

Featured in the smash hit Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, Brendan Dassey’s post-conviction attorneys, Northwestern Law Professors Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, discuss powerful psychological techniques used in police interrogations that can lead juveniles to falsely confess. Learn more about Brendan’s case, complete with additional footage from his interrogation that wasn’t seen on Making a Murderer.

Petition to reform the AEDPA

According to Judge Alex Kozinski, “Federal judges have been pretty much shut out … from granting habeas relief in most cases, even when they believe that an egregious miscarriage of justice has occurred. We now regularly have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted.”

See Gutting Habeas Corpus : The Inside Story of How Bill Clinton Sacrificed Prisoners’ Rights for Political Gain The Intercept, May 4, 2016, for how this came about.

Please sign this petition calling for the President of the United States and Congress to act to correct this situation, and to allow Federal judges to act when they believe a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

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